Capturing the neuronal ensembles underlying sleep and sedation


  • Prof Nicholas Franks

    Imperial College London

  • Prof William Wisden

    Imperial College London

Project summary

Why we spend one third of our lives in a state of vulnerable inactivity – sleep – is an enduring mystery. Like hunger and thirst, the urge to sleep is a primal biological drive. It builds during waking and then dissipates during sleep. But the question of what exactly the drive to sleep is remains unsolved. In fact the drive to sleep after prolonged sleep deprivation seems so strong that it is similar to taking a sedative drug. During this award, Professors Franks and Wisden will investigate the mechanisms underlying the sleep drive and ask whether certain sedatives produce unconsciousness by activating the same neuronal pathways. Using a genetic approach that 'tags' the neurons involved, they aim to find out how these circuits function. A deeper knowledge of how sedatives work could lead to drugs that have fewer side effects and might even give the restorative benefits of natural sleep.