The role of sleep and wakefulness in myelin plasticity

Luisa de Vivo, Michele Bellesi*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article (Academic Journal)peer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)
312 Downloads (Pure)


Myelin plasticity is gaining increasing recognition as an essential partner to synaptic plasticity, which mediates experience-dependent brain structure and function. However, how neural activity induces adaptive myelination and which mechanisms are involved remain open questions. More than two decades of transcriptomic studies in rodents have revealed that hundreds of brain transcripts change their expression in relation to the sleep-wake cycle. These studies consistently report upregulation of myelin-related genes during sleep, suggesting that sleep represents a window of opportunity during which myelination occurs. In this review, we summarize recent molecular and morphological studies detailing the dependence of myelin dynamics after sleep, wake, and chronic sleep loss, a condition that can affect myelin substantially. We present novel data about the effects of sleep loss on the node of Ranvier length and provide a hypothetical mechanism through which myelin changes in response to sleep loss. Finally, we discuss the current findings in humans, which appear to confirm the important role of sleep in promoting white matter integrity.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jun 2019


  • myelin
  • oligodendrocyte
  • white matter
  • sleep deprivation
  • brain


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