Interfaculty Research Cooperation - Decoding Sleep

Brain circuits of sensory perception during sleep-wake

Woman suffering from pain (headache)

Chronic pain is a debilitating neurological condition of high clinical relevance. It is estimated that about 20% of the adult European population is suffering from chronic pain syndromes during their life. In addition to the sensation of constant pain comorbid symptoms include increased anxiety, lack of motivation, depression and sleep deficits. It is elusive if sleep disturbances are the cause or consequence of the chronic pain condition. On the cellular and network level long-lasting pain sensitivity is caused by neuronal plasticity mechanisms throughout the pain processing system from the peripheral nociceptors to higher neocortical brain areas. The resulting changes in neuronal function could change the sleep patterns. In turn, a consolidation of a pain memory could occur during sleep.

We will investigate the sleep-wake cycle in mice during the transition to chronic pain. Multi-site electrical recordings from brain regions involved in pain processing will be performed to study brain oscillations. Opto- and pharmacogenetic approaches will be used to manipulate the sleep phases in order to modulate the development and expression of chronic pain.

Our study will be highly relevant to understand the mutual interaction of sleep and pain and it will give insight in the cellular and network mechanisms involved. These findings might point to new treatment strategies for chronic pain by modulation of sleep.