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PLoS One. 2012;7(12):e50580. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0050580. Epub 2012 Dec 7.

Characterization of phase transition in the thalamocortical system during anesthesia-induced loss of consciousness.

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  • 1Center for Neuroscience, Korea Institute of Science and Technology, Seoul, South Korea.

Abstract

The thalamocortical system plays a key role in the breakdown or emergence of consciousness, providing bottom-up information delivery from sensory afferents and integrating top-down intracortical and thalamocortical reciprocal signaling. A fundamental and so far unanswered question for cognitive neuroscience remains whether the thalamocortical switch for consciousness works in a discontinuous manner or not. To unveil the nature of thalamocortical system phase transition in conjunction with consciousness transition, ketamine/xylazine was administered unobtrusively to ten mice under a forced working test with motion tracker, and field potentials in the sensory and motor-related cortex and thalamic nuclei were concomitantly collected. Sensory and motor-related thalamocortical networks were found to behave continuously at anesthesia induction and emergence, as evidenced by a sigmoidal response function with respect to anesthetic concentration. Hyperpolarizing and depolarizing susceptibility diverged, and a non-discrete change of transitional probability occurred at transitional regimes, which are hallmarks of continuous phase transition. The hyperpolarization curve as a function of anesthetic concentration demonstrated a hysteresis loop, with a significantly higher anesthetic level for transition to the down state compared to transition to the up state. Together, our findings concerning the nature of phase transition in the thalamocortical system during consciousness transition further elucidate the underlying basis for the ambiguous borderlines between conscious and unconscious brains. Moreover, our novel analysis method can be applied to systematic and quantitative handling of subjective concepts in cognitive neuroscience.

PMID:
23236379
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC3517525
Free PMC Article
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