University of Massachusetts Medical School Faculty Publications


The neuroanatomy and neurochemistry of sleep-wake control

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Neurobiology; Anaclet Lab

Publication Date


Document Type



Cellular and Molecular Physiology | Neuroscience and Neurobiology


Sleep-wake control is dependent upon multiple brain areas widely distributed throughout the neural axis. Historically, the monoaminergic and cholinergic neurons of the ascending arousal system were the first to be discovered, and it was only relatively recently that GABAergic and glutamatergic wake- and sleep-promoting populations have been identified. Contemporary advances in molecular-genetic tools have revealed both the complexity and heterogeneity of GABAergic NREM sleep-promoting neurons as well as REM sleep-regulating populations in the brainstem such as glutamatergic neurons in the sublaterodorsal nucleus. The sleep-wake cycle progresses from periods of wakefulness to non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep and subsequently rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Each vigilance stage is controlled by multiple neuronal populations, via a complex regulation that is still incompletely understood. In recent years the field has seen a proliferation in the identification and characterization of new neuronal populations involved in sleep-wake control thanks to newer, more powerful molecular genetic tools that are able to reveal neurophysiological functions via selective activation, inhibition and lesion of neuroanatomically defined sub-types of neurons that are widespread in the brain, such as GABAergic and glutamatergic neurons.


basal forebrain, dorsal raphe, lateral hypothalamus, laterodorsal and pedunculopontine tegmental nuclei, locus coeruleus, nucleus accumbens, parabrachial nucleus, parafacial zone, rostromedial tegmental nucleus, sleep-wake circuitry, sublaterodorsal nucleus, tuberomamillary nucleus, ventral medulla, ventral tegmental area, ventrolateral periaqueductal gray, ventrolateral preoptic area, zona incerta

DOI of Published Version



Gompf HS, Anaclet C. The neuroanatomy and neurochemistry of sleep-wake control. Curr Opin Physiol. 2020 Jun;15:143-151. doi: 10.1016/j.cophys.2019.12.012. Epub 2019 Dec 31. PMID: 32647777; PMCID: PMC7347132. Link to article on publisher's site

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Current opinion in physiology

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