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When an animal faces a threatening situation while asleep, rapid arousal is the essential prerequisite for an adequate response. Here, we find that predator stimuli induce immediate arousal from REM sleep compared with NREM sleep. Using in vivo neural activity recording and cell-type-specific manipulations, we identify neurons in the medial subthalamic nucleus (mSTN) expressing corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) that mediate arousal and defensive responses to acute predator threats received through multiple sensory modalities across REM sleep and wakefulness. We observe involvement of the same neurons in the normal regulation of REM sleep and the adaptive increase in REM sleep induced by sustained predator stress. Projections to the lateral globus pallidus (LGP) are the effector pathway for the threat-coping responses and REM-sleep expression. Together, our findings suggest adaptive REM-sleep responses could be protective against threats and uncover a critical component of the neural circuitry at their basis. Copyright © 2022 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Yu-Ting Tseng, Binghao Zhao, Shanping Chen, Jialin Ye, Jingjing Liu, Lisha Liang, Hui Ding, Bernhard Schaefke, Qin Yang, Lina Wang, Feng Wang, Liping Wang. The subthalamic corticotropin-releasing hormone neurons mediate adaptive REM-sleep responses to threat. Neuron. 2022 Apr 06;110(7):1223-1239.e8

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PMID: 35065715

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