A Hypothalamic Switch for REM and Non-REM Sleep

Kai Siang Chen, Min Xu, Zhe Zhang, Wei Cheng Chang, Thomas Gaj, David V. Schaffer, Yang Dan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Rapid eye movement (REM) and non-REM (NREM) sleep are controlled by specific neuronal circuits. Here we show that galanin-expressing GABAergic neurons in the dorsomedial hypothalamus (DMH) comprise separate subpopulations with opposing effects on REM versus NREM sleep. Microendoscopic calcium imaging revealed diverse sleep-wake activity of DMH GABAergic neurons, but the galanin-expressing subset falls into two distinct groups, either selectively activated (REM-on) or suppressed (REM-off) during REM sleep. Retrogradely labeled, preoptic area (POA)-projecting galaninergic neurons are REM-off, whereas the raphe pallidus (RPA)-projecting neurons are primarily REM-on. Bidirectional optogenetic manipulations showed that the POA-projecting neurons promote NREM sleep and suppress REM sleep, while the RPA-projecting neurons have the opposite effects. Thus, REM/NREM switch is regulated antagonistically by DMH galaninergic neurons with intermingled cell bodies but distinct axon projections. Using microendoscopic calcium imaging and bidirectional optogenetic manipulation, Chen et al. showed that galaninergic neurons in the dorsomedial hypothalamus consist of two subpopulations with distinct axon projections and opposing roles in regulating the switch between REM and non-REM sleep.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1168-1176.e4
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 7 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • dorsomedial hypothalamus
  • galanin
  • sleep

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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