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The neural underpinnings of sleep have also been investigated with optogenetic methods (Adamantidis et al., 2007; de Lecea et al., 2012).

de Lecea et al. (2012) discuss the use of optogenetics in sleep research as well as in studying the interactions between neuromodulatory systems [e.g., hypocretin (Hcrt) and locus coeruleus/norepinephrine systems]. The authors stress the importance of optogenetics for controlling neural circuits to examine boundaries between sleep and wakefulness (de Lecea et al., 2012).

In line with this, researchers stimulated Hcrt producing neurons in freely moving mice (Adamantidis et al., 2007), which led to an increased probability of sleeping mice becoming awake (either from slow wave sleep or rapid eye movement sleep). Interestingly, Hcrt deficiency is associated with the neurological disorder narcolepsy in which sleeping patterns are altered (Adamantidis et al., 2007), and an optogenetic approach may provide further insights into such disorders.

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