Dissecting Downstream SCN Neural Circuits in Sleep and Arousal

2016 Pilot Project Read More


Principal investigators: Aaron Norris (WashU Anesthesiology), Erik Herzog (WashU Biology)


Sleep disturbances cause decrements in quality of life, contribute to mental health disorders, and may play a critical role in multiple neurodegenerative diseases. This study aims to define the neurocircuitry involved in circadian regulation of sleep and identify novel key points in this circuitry that can be manipulated to improve sleep function. One key neuropeptide that will be examined in this proposal, dynorphin, has multiple compounds and small molecules in various stages of development. The proposed studies will offer fundamental new insights into the regulation of sleep and will offer novel targets for future development in the treatment f sleep and related disorders.

Grants and Awards

A Novel Node in Threat Response Neurocircuitry: VGLUT2 Positive Supramammillary Neurons Projecting to Preoptic Hypothalamus
NIH/NIMH 5K08MH119538 (PI, Norris)
Public Health Relevance Statement: Areas of the brain that respond to threat and other stressors are important in neuropsychiatric diseases. This study aims to delineate the roles of a poorly studied brain region, the supramammillary nucleus, that recent findings indicate is critical for regulating responses to stressors. The role of this region of the brain in responding to stressors is uncharacterized and it may play an important role in mediating active coping responses.

Light-Induced Targeted Recombination Strategies For Genetic Access to Recently Active Neurons
NIH/National Eye Institute 1R21EY031269 (PI, Norris)
Public Health Relevance Statement: PROJECT NARRATIVE The goal of this work is to develop new tools to allow genetic access to recently active neurons. These tools will enable visualization and manipulation of neural circuit activity selectively in neurons that have recently fired, allowing researchers to modulate specific neural circuits in the brain with high temporal precision. These tools will lead to better understanding of the neural circuitry giving rise to perception, memory, complex thought, and behavior, and how these are altered by disease states and neurological disorders.


Aaron J Norris Is a corresponding author, Jordan R Shaker, Aaron L Cone, Imeh B Ndiokho, Michael R Bruchas. Parabrachial opioidergic projections to preoptic hypothalamus mediate behavioral and physiological thermal defenses. eLife 2021;10:e60779


Updated April 2021


Pilot project teams include Hope Center faculty members and others. For more about Hope Center faculty on this team, click below.

Erik Herzog


This pilot project is made possible by the Danforth Foundation Challenge Endowment.

Danforth Challenge Endowment