KAIST (President Kwang Hyung Lee) announced on the 20th that a research team led by Professor Daesoo Kim of the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences and Dr. Jeongjin Kim 's team from the Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) have identified the principle of awakening animals by responding to sounds even while sleeping.
Sleep is a very important physiological process that organizes brain activity and maintains health. During sleep, the function of sensory nerves is blocked, so the ability to detect danger in the proximity is reduced. However, many animals detect approaching predators and respond even while sleeping. Scientists thought that animals ready for danger by alternating between deep sleep and light sleep.
A research team led by Professor Daesoo Kim at KAIST discovered that animals have neural circuits that respond to sounds even during deep sleep. While awake, the medial geniculate thalamus responds to sounds, but during deep sleep, or Non-REM sleep, the Mediodorsal thalamus responds to sounds to wake up the brain.
As a result of the study, when the rats fell into deep sleep, the nerves of the medial geniculate thalamus were also sleeping, but the nerves of mediodorsal thalamus were awake and responded immediately to sounds. In addition, it was observed that when mediodorsal thalamus was inhibited, the rats could not wake up even when a sound was heard, and when the mediodorsal thalamus was stimulated, the rats woke up within a few seconds without sound.
This is the first study to show that sleep and wakefulness can transmit auditory signals through different neural circuits, and was reported in the international journal, Current Biology on February 7, and was highlighted by Nature. (https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-023-00354-0)
Professor Daesoo Kim explained, “The findings of this study can used in developing digital healthcare technologies to be used to improve understanding of disorders of senses and wakefulness seen in various brain diseases and to control the senses in the future.”
This research was carried out with the support from the National Research Foundation of Korea's Mid-Career Research Foundation Program.
Figure 1. Traditionally, sound signals were thought to be propagated from the auditory nerve to the auditory thalamus. However, while in slow-wave sleep, the auditory nerve sends sound signals to the mediodorsal thalamic neurons via the brainstem nerve to induce arousal in the brain.
Figure 2. GRIK4 dorsomedial nerve in response to sound stimulation. The awakening effect is induced as the activity of the GRIK4 dorsal medial nerve increases based on the time when sound stimulation is given.