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Sleep Res Online. 1998;1(1):1-10.

Coalescence of sleep rhythms and their chronology in corticothalamic networks.

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Laboratoire de Neurophysiologie, Faculté de Médicine, Université Laval, Quebec G1K 7P4, Canada.


The cellular substrates of sleep oscillations have recently been investigated by means of multi-site, intracellular and extracellular recordings under anesthesia, and these data have been validated during natural sleep in cats and humans. Although various rhythms occurring during the state of resting sleep (spindle, 7-14 Hz; delta, 1-4 Hz; and slow oscillation, <1 Hz) are conventionally described by using their different frequencies, they are coalesced within complex wave-sequences due to the synchronizing power of the cortically generated slow oscillation (main peak around 0.7 Hz). In intracellular recordings from anesthetized animals, the slow oscillation is characterized by a biphasic sequence consisting of a prolonged hyperpolarization and depolarization. Basically similar patterns are observed by means of extracellular discharges and/or field potentials in naturally sleeping animals and humans. The depolarizing component of the slow oscillation is transferred to the thalamus where it contributes to the synchronization of spindles over widespread territories. The association between the depolarizing component of the slow oscillation and the subsequent sequence of spindle waves forms what is termed the K-complex. The slow oscillation also groups cortically generated delta waves. At variance with previous assumptions that the brain lies for the most part in the dark and a global inhibition occurs in resting sleep, cortical cells are quite active in this behavioral state. This unexpectedly rich activity raises the possibility that, during sleep, the brain is occupied to specify/reorganize circuits and to consolidate memory traces acquired during wakefulness.

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