Neuronal noise as an origin of sleep arousals and its role in sudden infant death syndrome

Hila Dvir, Idan Elbaz, Shlomo Havlin, Lior Appelbaum, Plamen Ch Ivanov, Ronny P. Bartsch

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29 Scopus citations


In addition to regular sleep/wake cycles, humans and animals exhibit brief arousals from sleep. Although much is known about consolidated sleep and wakefulness, the mechanism that triggers arousals remains enigmatic. Here, we argue that arousals are caused by the intrinsic neuronal noise of wake-promoting neurons. We propose a model that simulates the superposition of the noise from a group of neurons, and show that, occasionally, the superposed noise exceeds the excitability threshold and provokes an arousal. Because neuronal noise decreases with increasing temperature, our model predicts arousal frequency to decrease as well. To test this prediction, we perform experiments on the sleep/wake behavior of zebrafish larvae and find that increasing water temperatures lead to fewer and shorter arousals, as predicted by our analytic derivations and model simulations. Our findings indicate a previously unrecognized neurophysiological mechanism that links sleep arousals with temperature regulation, and may explain the origin of the clinically observed higher risk for sudden infant death syndrome with increased ambient temperature.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbereaar6277
Pages (from-to)eaar6277
JournalScience advances
Issue number4
StatePublished - 25 Apr 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by a Shulamit Aloni Fellowship of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Space, Israel (grant no. 3-13276 to H.D.), the United States–Israel Binational Science Foundation (grant nos. 2012219 to P.C.I. and S.H., and 2011335 to L.A.), the Israel Science Foundation (grant nos. 690/15 to L.A. and 1657/16 to R.P.B.), the Legacy Heritage Biomedical Program of the Israel Science Foundation (grant no. 992/14 to L.A.), the German Israeli Foundation (grant no. I-1372-303.7/2016 to R.P.B.), NIH (grant no. 1R01-HL098437 to P.C.I.), the W. M. Keck Foundation (grant to P.C.I.), and a Marie Curie Fellowship (grant no. IIF 628159 to R.P.B.).

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2018 The Authors.


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