Birgitte Kornum, a brain scientist from the Department of Neuroscience at the University of Copenhagen (Denmark) , was surprised when she attended one of the world’s largest sleep conferences to see many
Pharmaceutical businesses were focused on hypocretin. The protein found in brain cells has recently received a lot of interest in sleep research.
This is because hypocretin is thought to play a role in both insomnia (a reduced ability to fall asleep at night) and narcolepsy (a reduced ability to stay awake during the day).
People who suffer from insomnia may have too much hypocretin in their brain, whereas those who suffer from narcolepsy may have too little.
Hypocretin may possibly play a role in depression, ADHD, and other mental problems, according to researchers.
Hypocretin also influences the order of sleep stages.
““Narcolepsy patients suffering from low levels of hypocretin experience muddled sleep stages. We know this from mice tests demonstrating that hypocretin affects the order of these stages,” explains Anja Holm from Aalborg University, who is first author of the study and who did the tests together with Birgitte Kornum.
Existing research implies that in order to remedy the problem, we need to learn more about hypocretin modulation.