Étudiante-chercheuse étoile April 2014

Sonia Jego, étudiant-chercheur étoile, FRQS

Sonia Jego

PhD student in Psychiatry
Douglas Mental Health University institute

Award-winning publication: Optogenetic identification of a rapid eye movement sleep modulatory circuit in the hypothalamus

Published in: Nature neuroscience, 2013.


"In this study, we demonstrated that MCH regulates the release of the GABA inhibitory neurotransmitter in the posterior hypothalamus—the structure that controls awakening—to foster sleep. We also showed that MCH neurons rely on several targets in the brain to adjust REM sleep. By combining the use of modern technologies such as optogenetics, transgenic mice and sleep recordings, we were able to specifically manipulate the activity of MCH neurons according to sleep stage."

Though 3.3 million Canadians suffer from sleep disorders, this vital function remains understudied. The research highlights how crucial MCH neurons are to the consolidation of REM sleep (or dream sleep) since they inhibit the structures that control awakening. The findings are all the more important since MCH neurons impact hypocretin neurons, which play a determining role in maintaining awakening since their degeneration leads to drowsiness and is believed to cause narcolepsy. The significant advancements made by Sonia Jego elucidate the function of this activity, which takes up one-third of our lives, and could lead to better treatment options for people grappling with sleep pathologies.