In Neuron 43 (August 19), Y.-L. Xu, R. K. Reinscheid, et al. (said alia including a gaggle of 10 coauthors) report results that neuropeptide S keeps rats awake, reduces their level of anxiety, and elevates curiosity and interest in their surroundings. From the Science Now article by R. Ehrenberg:
...the team conducted a series of experiments to see how neuropeptide S affected the stress levels and wakefulness of rats. They found that rats injected with the neuropeptide were less anxious about exploring brightly lit areas of their cages than were normal rats, which preferred the safer, enclosed areas. When researchers put marbles into the cages (rats worry about foreign objects), injected rats didn't care as much and buried fewer of the marbles in their bedding.
In addition to calming nerves, a jab of neuropeptide S kicked the rats in high gear. Those injected with the protein stayed awake for almost twice as long as normal rats. When put in a new cage, rats usually inspect it for a time but then get bored and just sit around. But injected rats remained active and kept exploring the cage as if they'd never been there before. "It's genuine arousal, the urge to go out and do something new," Reinscheid says.
Apparently this neuropeptide activates receptors in "a previously unmapped collection of cells in an ancient part of the brainstem located near the locus coeruleus". Yeah, that's definitely the first place I'd have looked for something like that.
All I want to know is, when can I get some? I have this obsessive-compulsive habit of burying marbles in my bedding and it's really bugging me.