Sleep-anticipating effects of melatonin in the human brain

Tali Gorfine, Yaniv Assaf, Yonatan Gottstein, Yaara Yeshurun, Nava Zisapel*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Melatonin, the hormone produced nocturnally by the pineal gland, is an endogenous regulator of the sleep-wake cycle. The effects of melatonin on brain activities and their relation to induction of sleepiness were studied in a randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study. Melatonin, but not placebo, reduced task-related activity in the rostro-medial aspect of the occipital cortex during a visual-search task and in the auditory cortex during a music task. These effects correlated with subjective measurements of fatigue. In addition, melatonin enhanced the activation in the left parahippocampus in an autobiographic memory task. Results demonstrate that melatonin modulates brain activity in a manner resembling actual sleep although subjects are fully awake. Furthermore, the fatigue inducing effect of melatonin on brain activity is essentially different from that of sleep deprivation thus revealing differences between fatigues related to the circadian sleep regulation as opposed to increased homeostatic sleep need. Our findings highlight the role of melatonin in priming sleep-associated brain activation patterns in anticipation of sleep.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)410-418
Number of pages9
Issue number1
StatePublished - 15 May 2006


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