Active neocortical processes during quiescent sleep.

M. Steriade


The neocortex and the thalamus constitute a unified oscillatory machine during different states of vigilance. The cortically generated slow sleep oscillation has the virtue of grouping other sleep rhythms, including those arising in the thalamus, within complex wave-sequences. Despite the coherent oscillatory activity in corticothalamic circuits, on the functional side there is dissociation between thalamus and neocortex during sleep. While dorsal thalamic neurons undergo inhibitory processes induced by prolonged spikebursts of GABAergic thalamic reticular neurons, the cortex displays, periodically, a rich spontaneous activity and preserves the capacity to process internally generated signals. Simultaneous intracellular recordings from thalamic and cortical neurons show that short-term plasticity processes occur after prolonged and rhythmic spike-bursts fired by thalamic and cortical neurons during slow-wave sleep oscillations. This may serve to support resonant phenomena and reorganize corticothalamic circuitry.

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