Wakefulness is a state that an animal can consciously sense internal drives and external stimuli and actively respond to environment. Fundamental endeavors such as finding food and avoiding predators require conscious and wakeful behaviors in order to improve chance of survival. Elementary CNS arousal drives shift between states of sleep and wakefulness, to orient an animal towards important stimuli and to maintain wakefulness in the absence of important external stimuli. Specific motives and incentives explain why an animal does one thing rather than another. Arousal is modulated by circadian, homeostatic, executive/cognitive, emotional, and environmental factors, which can be simply summarized as internal drives and environmental pressures. Both conceptually and experimentally, we know that an animal’s level of arousal can be variable across minutes, days, seasons, and years. These variations are associated with behavioral characteristics such as mood, feelings, temperament, and overall cognition. While arousal’s role in promoting sleep or wakefulness is one of its most obvious, and well-studied, effects on behavior, the more subtle shifts between quiet waking, alertness and attention are equally important, with potential clinical manifestations.
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