Selective REM sleep restriction in mice using a device designed for tunable somatosensory stimulation

Dillon M. Huffman, Asma'a A. Ajwad, Anuj Agarwal, Michael E. Lhamon, Kevin Donohue, Bruce F. O'Hara, Sridhar Sunderam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Sleep perturbation is widely used to investigate the physiological mechanisms that mediate sleep-wake dynamics, and to isolate the specific roles of sleep in health and disease. However, state-of-the-art methods to accomplish sleep perturbation in preclinical models are limited in their throughput, flexibility, and specificity. New method: A system was developed to deliver vibro-tactile somatosensory stimulation aimed at controlled, selective sleep perturbation. The frequency and intensity of stimulation can be tuned to target a variety of experimental applications, from sudden arousal to sub-threshold transitions between light and deep stages of NREM sleep. This device was activated in closed-loop to selectively interrupt REM sleep in mice. Results: Vibro-tactile stimulation effectively and selectively interrupted REM sleep – significantly reducing the average REM bout duration relative to matched, unstimulated baseline recordings. As REM sleep was repeatedly interrupted, homeostatic mechanisms prompted a progressively quicker return to REM sleep. These effects were dependent on the parameters of stimulation applied. Comparison with existing methods: Existing sleep perturbation systems often require moving parts within the cage and/or restrictive housing. The system presented is unique in that it interrupts sleep without invading the animal's space. The ability to vary stimulation parameters is a great advantage over existing methods, as it allows for adaptation in response to habituation and/or circadian/homeostatic changes in arousal threshold. Conclusions: The proposed method of stimulation demonstrates feasibility in affecting mouse sleep within a standard home cage environment, thus limiting environmental stress. Furthermore, the ability to tune frequency and intensity of stimulation allows for graded control over the extent of sleep perturbation, which potentially expands the utility of this technology beyond applications related to sleep.

Original languageEnglish
Article number110063
JournalJournal of Neuroscience Methods
StatePublished - Apr 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 Elsevier B.V.


  • Automated sleep perturbation
  • Mouse
  • REM sleep restriction
  • Real-time sleep classification
  • Somatosensory stimulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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