Research Topic

Brainstem regulation of sleep, wake, and behavior

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Work over the past century has revealed that a distributed network of brainstem nuclei provides ascending “activating” inputs to the forebrain and descending inputs to the spinal cord to regulate and coordinate cortical arousal and motor function. In addition to their critical role in behavior and the ...

Work over the past century has revealed that a distributed network of brainstem nuclei provides ascending “activating” inputs to the forebrain and descending inputs to the spinal cord to regulate and coordinate cortical arousal and motor function. In addition to their critical role in behavior and the initiation and maintenance of wakefulness, these brainstem nuclei also—directly or permissively—regulate non-rapid eye movement (NREM) and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Brainstem dysfunction can therefore dramatically alter behavioral state, including the synchronization of forebrain activity with appropriate motor outputs. Damage, loss, or dysfunction of the brainstem nuclei controlling sleep-wake or motor behaviors is a key contributing etiology to the profound behavioral state and motor disturbances that pervade many neurodegenerative conditions.
A significant challenge for researchers is delineating the specific contributions of discrete brainstem nodes, pathways, and transmitter systems to behavioral state and motor regulation. This is in large part due to the anatomically complex and highly cellular heterogeneous nature of the brainstem. Recent technological developments, including inducible knockouts mouse models and optogenetic and pharmacogenetic tools, are expected to significantly advance our understanding of the role(s) of brainstem circuits in regulating behavioral state and motor function, in both normal and pathophysiologic contexts.
This Research Topic encompasses the brainstem neural circuitry subserving behavioral state regulation, including wakefulness and motor behavior, NREM sleep, and REM sleep. This Research Topic will also explore the mechanisms by which brainstem diseases and disorders alter these behavioral states. We welcome contributions ranging from original research reports, technical or methods articles, reviews, and commentary or theoretical articles. We in addition seek papers describing new approaches and tools for elucidating brainstem structure-function relationships at the circuit level, in particular in the context of behavioral state regulation. This Research Topic's scope includes, but is not limited to, neuroanatomy, neurophysiology, molecular biology, neuropharmacology, functional neuroimaging, and disease states afflicting the brainstem.


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