The Journal of Neuroscience is keeping us up at night with an article called “Systemic and Nasal Delivery of Orexin-A (Hypocretin-1) Reduces the Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Cognitive Performance in Nonhuman Primates.” Wired has taken this study and rendered it comprehensible to the garden-variety reader by translating it into “Snorting a Brain Chemical Could Replace Sleep”:
A nasal spray containing a naturally occurring brain hormone called orexin A reversed the effects of sleep deprivation in monkeys, allowing them to perform like well-rested monkeys on cognitive tests. The discovery’s first application will probably be in treatment of the severe sleep disorder narcolepsy.
The treatment is “a totally new route for increasing arousal, and the new study shows it to be relatively benign,” said Jerome Siegel, a professor of psychiatry at UCLA and a co-author of the paper. “It reduces sleepiness without causing edginess.”
The study, published in the Dec. 26 edition of The Journal of Neuroscience, found orexin A not only restored monkeys’ cognitive abilities but made their brains look “awake” in PET scans.
Siegel said that orexin A is unique in that it only had an impact on sleepy monkeys, not alert ones, and that it is “specific in reversing the effects of sleepiness” without other impacts on the brain.
Since it’s not actually a stimulant, it probably won’t ever hit the black market. But it could still, you know, spread like wildfire. And make someone an awful lot of money.