A new study using rhesus monkeys finds that a nasal spray containing orexin, a naturally occurring chemical in the brain, can increase alertness and reduce the performance deficits associated with sleep deprivation. Previous research has shown that a loss of orexin-producing neurons causes narcolepsy and that treating patients with orexin can increase arousal and attention. In the current study, researchers administered orexin either intravenously or via nasal spray to monkeys that were deprived of sleep for 30-36 hours and then subjected to a series of cognitive tests. They found that while both nasal and intravenous orexin improved the monkeys’ performance on the tests, the nasal spray was significantly more effective than intravenous orexin.

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