New neurons in the adult brain: The role of sleep and consequences of sleep loss

Peter Meerlo, Ralph E. Mistlberger, Barry L. Jacobs, H. Craig Heller, Dennis McGinty

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

199 Scopus citations

Abstract

Research over the last few decades has firmly established that new neurons are generated in selected areas of the adult mammalian brain, particularly the dentate gyrus of the hippocampal formation and the subventricular zone of the lateral ventricles. The function of adult-born neurons is still a matter of debate. In the case of the hippocampus, integration of new cells in to the existing neuronal circuitry may be involved in memory processes and the regulation of emotionality. In recent years, various studies have examined how the production of new cells and their development into neurons is affected by sleep and sleep loss. While disruption of sleep for a period shorter than one day appears to have little effect on the basal rate of cell proliferation, prolonged restriction or disruption of sleep may have cumulative effects leading to a major decrease in hippocampal cell proliferation, cell survival and neurogenesis. Importantly, while short sleep deprivation may not affect the basal rate of cell proliferation, one study in rats shows that even mild sleep restriction may interfere with the increase in neurogenesis that normally occurs with hippocampus-dependent learning. Since sleep deprivation also disturbs memory formation, these data suggest that promoting survival, maturation and integration of new cells may be an unexplored mechanism by which sleep supports learning and memory processes. Most methods of sleep deprivation that have been employed affect both non-rapid eye movement (NREM) and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Available data favor the hypothesis that decreases in cell proliferation are related to a reduction in REM sleep, whereas decreases in the number of cells that subsequently develop into adult neurons may be related to reductions in both NREM and REM sleep. The mechanisms by which sleep loss affects different aspects of adult neurogenesis are unknown. It has been proposed that adverse effects of sleep disruption may be mediated by stress and glucocorticoids. However, a number of studies clearly show that prolonged sleep loss can inhibit hippocampal neurogenesis independent of adrenal stress hormones. In conclusion, while modest sleep restriction may interfere with the enhancement of neurogenesis associated with learning processes, prolonged sleep disruption may even affect the basal rates of cell proliferation and neurogenesis. These effects of sleep loss may endanger hippocampal integrity, thereby leading to cognitive dysfunction and contributing to the development of mood disorders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)187-194
Number of pages8
JournalSleep Medicine Reviews
Volume13
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Physiology (medical)

Keywords

  • Adult neurogenesis
  • Cell proliferation
  • Circadian rhythms
  • Depression
  • Glucocorticoids
  • Hippocampus
  • Insomnia
  • Learning and memory
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Sleep restriction
  • Stress

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  • Cite this

    Meerlo, P., Mistlberger, R. E., Jacobs, B. L., Craig Heller, H., & McGinty, D. (2009). New neurons in the adult brain: The role of sleep and consequences of sleep loss. Sleep Medicine Reviews, 13(3), 187-194. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.smrv.2008.07.004