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article imageIf it's any consolation, fish get insomnia too

By Chris V. Thangham     Oct 16, 2007 in Environment
California scientists are reporting some types of fishes do sleep in the water and a few of them suffer from insomnia. Zebrafish are one species who contain a mutant gene that disrupts sleeping habits.
Stanford University School of Medicine researchers studying sleep disorders in humans, wants to compare findings with fish varieties exhibiting similar types of behavior. They found that some Zebrafish, commonly used as an aquarium pet, have a mutant gene that disrupts sleep patterns similar to humans.
Zebrafish that have a mutant gene slept 30 per cent less than normal Zebrafish without the mutation. When they do fall asleep, they slept only half as long as normal fish according to researchers.
The mutant fish lacks a working receptor for hypocretin, a neuropeptide, which is secreted in normal fish by neurons in the region of the brain that controls hunger, sex and other basic behaviors.
Scientists wants to study more about this behavior in Zebrafish so they can better understand human sleep disorders and how the brain plays a part in the sleep.
Zebrafish, like mice, are popular research subjects; they have a backbone that better represents the human nervous system. And they are easy to breed and cheap to create different forms of mutant zebrafish.
Emmanuel Mignot, the lead researcher in this group, said they will analyze different types of sleep behaviors in Zebrafish and see how their sleep patterns and brain networks work.
Reuters reports:
"Many people ask the questions, 'Why are we sleeping?' and, 'What is the function of sleep?'" Mignot said. "I think it is more important to figure out first how the brain produces and regulates sleep. This will likely give us important clues on how and maybe why sleep has been selected by natural evolution and is so universal."
The study was published in Tuesday's edition of the Public Library of Science-Biology.
I would imagine that, once they find a connection, they can develop suitable treatments for sleep disorders.
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