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A link from sleep to pain

Yale Medicine Magazine, 2002 - Spring


A neuropeptide whose absence may be a factor in sudden sleep attacks also appears to modulate pain. A team that included Anthony N. van den Pol, Ph.D., professor of neurosurgery at Yale, and colleagues at the University of North Carolina, found that hypocretin neurons provide a biochemical link from the hypothalamus—which regulates eating, drinking, sleeping, waking, body temperature, chemical balances, heart rate, hormones, sex and emotions—to the spinal cord. “We found that most cells in a region of the spinal cord responsible for detecting pain (pictured at left) show a significant physiological response to the peptide hypocretin-2,” said van den Pol, a co-author of the study published in the January issue of the Journal of Physiology. New drugs related to hypocretin, which plays a role in narcolepsy, could help in the treatment of pain.

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