Neurons that control hibernation-like behavior are discovered

Thursday, June 11, 2020 - 12:50 in Biology & Nature

The dream of suspended animation has long captivated the human imagination, reflected in countless works of mythology and fiction, from King Arthur and Sleeping Beauty to Captain America and Han Solo. By effectively pausing time itself for an individual, a state of stasis promises to enable the repair of lethal injuries, prolong life and allow for travel to distant stars. While suspended animation may seem a fantasy, a strikingly diverse array of life has already achieved a version of it. Through behaviors like hibernation, animals such as bears, frogs, and hummingbirds can survive harsh winters, droughts, food shortages and other extreme conditions by essentially entering into biological stasis, where metabolism, heart rate, and breathing slow to a crawl and body temperature drops. Now, Harvard Medical School (HMS) neuroscientists have discovered a population of neurons in the hypothalamus that controls hibernation-like behavior, or torpor, in mice, revealing for the first time the neural...

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