The cognitive deficits caused by sleep deprivation may be reversible by reducing the concentration of a specific enzyme in the hippocampus of the brain. The findings, reported in Nature, could present a new approach to treating the memory and learning deficits of insomnia.
Sleep deprivation afflicts millions of people and can lead to short- and long-term memory and learning problems. Ted Abel and colleagues found that sleep deprivation in mice affects an important molecular pathway in the hippocampus - a region of the brain known to be important for memory and learning. Mice deprived of sleep had increased levels of the enzyme PDE4 and reduced levels of the molecule cAMP, the latter of which is crucial in forming new synaptic connections in the hippocampus as a result of learning.
By administrating an inhibitor of PDE4 to the sleep-deprived mice, the researchers were able to reverse the decrease in cAMP concentration. This reversal also helped to rescue deficits in synaptic connections in the hippocampus and therefore counteract some of the memory consequences of sleep deprivation.
Ted Abel (University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA)
(C) Nature press release.
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