Newswise — While the occasional all-nighter to cram for exams or finish a grant proposal may seem like no big deal, losing sleep night after night could take its toll on brain health in later life, two new studies suggest. Based on microdialysis experiments in live mice, Dave Holtzman, Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri, and colleagues report in the current issue of Science that extracellular amyloid-beta levels in the brain fall during slumber and rise with wakefulness. They discovered that these Abeta dynamics rely on the hormone orexin, and that forcing animals to sleep or stay awake decreases or increases Abeta plaque formation accordingly in a mouse model for Alzheimer disease.

Earlier work from the Holtzman lab had shown that synaptic activity triggers Abeta release, suggesting that the sleep-deprived mice in the current study churned out more Abeta because their brains were revved up longer than usual. While this is hard to prove formally, a rat electrophysiology study published in yesterday’s issue of Neuron seems to lend support for that idea.

See the Alzheimer Research Forum's news report for a detailed account of this work:

ReferencesKang J-E, Lim MM, Bateman RJ, Lee JJ, Smyth LP, Cirrito JR, Fujiki N, Nishino S, Holtzman DH. Amyloid-Beta Dynamics are Regulated by Orexin and the Sleep-Wake Cycle. Science 2009 Sept 24. Abstract

Vyazovskiy VV, Olcese U, Lazimy YM, Faraguna U, Esser SK, Williams JC, Cirelli C, Tononi G. Cortical Firing and Sleep Homeostasis. Neuron 2009 Sept 24;(63):865-878. Abstract

The Alzheimer Research Forum (, founded in 1996, is the web's most dynamic scientific community dedicated to understanding Alzheimer disease and related disorders. Access to the web site is free to all. The Forum’s editorial priorities are as diverse as the needs of the research community. The web site reports on the latest scientific findings, from basic research to clinical trials; creates and maintains public databases of essential research data and reagents; and produces discussion forums to promote debate, speed the dissemination of new ideas, and break down barriers across the numerous disciplines that can contribute to the global effort to cure Alzheimer's disease.

The ARF team of professional science writers and editors, information technology experts, web developers and producers all work closely with its distinguished and diverse Advisory Board to ensure a high quality of information and services. The Alzheimer Research Forum is an independent nonprofit organization supported by grants and individual donations. The web site does not endorse any specific product or scientific approach.

Register for reporter access to contact details

Science (24-Sep-2009)