Identification of Neural Circuits Coordinating Sleep and Cardiovascular Regulation

Mohammad Saffari Doost Scholar in Action photo

Mohammad Saffari Doost : Integrative Biology major

Mentor: Yang Dan, Molecular & Cell Biology

Sleep is essential for human health. In particular, insufficient or low-quality sleep causes higher risks for cardiovascular diseases. Mammals exhibit distinct rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and non-REM sleep, and non-REM sleep is associated with lower heart rate and blood pressure. However, how neural circuits coordinate sleep and heart functions remains unclear. The nucleus ambiguus (Amb), located deep in the medulla, contains cardioinhibitory cholinergic neurons. Activating Amb neurons decreases the heart rate. Mohammad will identify the sleep neurons that activate Amb cholinergic neurons using virus-mediated retrograde tracing. He will also test whether optogenetically activating these sleep neurons can decrease the heart rate. This study will uncover the neural mechanism coordinating sleep and heart functions and potentially lead to therapeutics for sleep and cardiovascular disorders.