Published in ESRS Newsletter November 2017


French sleep research pioneer Michel Jouvet died on the night of October 2 to 3 at the age of 91 in Villeurbanne, France.
He became a CNRS researcher in 1958 before becoming a Professor in medicine at the university of Lyon in 1961.

In the late fifties, Michel Jouvet and his collaborators made a seminal discovery: By serendipity, they observed that muscles are paralyzed during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep discovered a few years before by the Americans Aserinsky and Kleitman. Because the state was both characterized by cortical activation and REM and a strong muscle atonia, he called it "paradoxical sleep".

The seminal paper reporting his discovery, "Sur un stade d’activité électrique cérébrale rapide au cours du sommeil physiologique," was published in 1959 in "Les comptes rendus de l’académie des Sciences".

Jouvet then discovered along the following decades the structures generating paradoxical sleep in his famous INSERM U52 laboratory (1968-1998) installed in the University of Lyon, Medical School of Rockefeller.

He received in 2010 the first European Sleep Science Award at the 20th meeting of the European Sleep Research Society organized in Lisbon. 

Jouvet and his collaborators also created a cat model of REM sleep behavior disorder more than twenty years before the discovery of the pathology in humans. He discovered the drug modafinil still used in the treatment of narcolepsy.

He also proposed his psychological individuation theory on the function of paradoxical sleep and made famous diaries and drawings of thousands of his dreams.
He published several famous books, including "The Paradox of Sleep: The Story of Dreaming", and the novel "The Castle of Dreams".

The European sleep research field will greatly miss this pioneer and genius.

Dr. Pierre-Hervé Luppi
UMR 5292 CNRS/U1028 INSERM, University of Lyon, France