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Future Sedation Dentistry?: Researchers Discover Brain’s “Sleep Node”

If you are anxious about visiting the dentist, sedation dentistry can help you. It’s a simple process: you take a pill and become relaxed, allowing you to have dental care you might otherwise avoid. However, a new discovery might allow us to simply switch on your brain’s “sleep node” to allow you to relax without a need for drugs.

Necessary and Sufficient to Produce Deep Sleep

Sleep Node of Brain ActivatedAccording to researchers at the Harvard School of Medicine and the University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, a new circuit discovered within the brain controls how we fall into deep sleep. In fact, researchers were able to turn the circuit on and cause animals to go into a deep sleep without the use of sedatives or sleep aids.

The circuit in question is located in the brainstem’s parafacial zone, where a certain type of neuron produces the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which is responsible for deep sleep.

Unprecedented Control

In the past, researchers had tried to influence these brain regions using electrical stimulation, but electrical stimulation activated the brain region by region and couldn’t target specific types of cells within a region. In this experiment, they were able to control this type of neuron with a specially engineered virus, which targeted just the type of cell they were interested in, without activating other nearby cells.

Researchers said, “We are at a truly transformative point in neuroscience where the use of designer genes gives us unprecedented ability to control the brain.” They hope that not only will this research reveal more about the brain’s structure and function, but will give them new tools for better and safer anesthetics, as well as the ability to treat sleep disorders such as sleep apnea.

This discovery is a truly exciting one, and we look forward to finding even better sedation dentistry techniques to help even our most anxious patients have relaxed, comfortable, and pleasant visits to our office.

If you want to learn more about the current state of the art sedation dentistry in San Diego, please call 619-727-6633 for an appointment at Strober Dental.

By |September 24th, 2014|Uncategorized|