Deciphering the Neuropeptide Circuitry of Emotional Arousal in Narcolepsy

2023 Seed Grant
William J. Giardino, Ph.D.
Stanford University

This research project aims to investigate the neural mechanisms of a specific type of brain cell called neuropeptide neurons within a region of the brain’s amygdala network called the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST). Dr. Giardino’s proposal pursues the possibility that these BNST neuropeptide neurons play a role in regulating sudden episodes of muscle weakness and transitions into sleep that interrupt normal wakefulness, called cataplexy. Cataplexy is triggered by powerful emotional stimuli and occurs in many subjects with narcolepsy, a sleep disorder that affects around 1 in 2,000 people. Dr. Giardino’s lab will use advanced techniques to study how these neurons work in a mouse model of narcolepsy, which will help them discover the underlying causes of cataplexy and lead to the development of new treatments for this devastating condition. By gaining insight into how emotional neural systems like BNST neuropeptide neurons control sleep and wakefulness, this research will ultimately improve the quality of life for people with narcolepsy, other sleep disorders, and related mental health conditions.

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