The relationship between fasting-induced torpor, sleep and wakefulness in the laboratory mouse
Huang Y., Flaherty S., Pothecary C., Foster R., Peirson S., Vyazovskiy V.
Abstract Torpor is a regulated reversible state of metabolic suppression used by many mammalian species to conserve energy. Although torpor has been studied extensively in terms of general physiology, metabolism and neuroendocrinology, the effects of hypometabolism and associated hypothermia on brain activity and states of vigilance have received little attention. Here we performed continuous monitoring of electroencephalogram (EEG), electromyogram (EMG) and peripheral body temperature in adult, male C57BL/6 mice over consecutive days of scheduled restricted feeding. All animals showed prominent bouts of hypothermia that became progressively deeper and longer as fasting progressed. EEG and EMG were markedly affected by hypothermia, although the typical electrophysiological signatures of NREM sleep, REM sleep and wakefulness allowed us to perform vigilance-state classification in all cases. Invariably, hypothermia bouts were initiated from a state indistinguishable from NREM sleep, with EEG power decreasing gradually in parallel with decreasing body temperature. Furthermore, during deep hypothermia REM sleep was largely abolished, but we observed brief and intense bursts of muscle activity, which resembled the regular motor discharges seen during early ontogeny associated with immature sleep patterns. We conclude that torpor and sleep are electrophysiologically on a continuum, and that, in order for torpor to occur, mice need to first transition through euthermic sleep.