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Semin Cell Dev Biol. 2011 Apr;22(2):245-51. doi: 10.1016/j.semcdb.2011.02.008. Epub 2011 Feb 15.

Thalamocortical dynamics of sleep: roles of purinergic neuromodulation.

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Department of Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA 02114, United States.


Thalamocortical dynamics, the millisecond to second changes in activity of thalamocortical circuits, are central to perception, action and cognition. Generated by local circuitry and sculpted by neuromodulatory systems, these dynamics reflect the expression of vigilance states. In sleep, thalamocortical dynamics are thought to mediate "offline" functions including memory consolidation and synaptic scaling. Here, I discuss thalamocortical sleep dynamics and their modulation by the ascending arousal system and locally released neurochemicals. I focus on modulation of these dynamics by electrically silent astrocytes, highlighting the role of purinergic signaling in this glial form of communication. Astrocytes modulate cortical slow oscillations, sleep behavior, and sleep-dependent cognitive function. The discovery that astrocytes can modulate sleep dynamics and sleep-related behaviors suggests a new way of thinking about the brain, in which integrated circuits of neurons and glia control information processing and behavioral output.

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