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Neuron. 2013 Mar 20;77(6):1136-50. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2013.01.031.

Making waves: initiation and propagation of corticothalamic Ca2+ waves in vivo.

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Institute of Neuroscience, Technical University Munich, Biedersteiner Strasse 29, 80802 Munich, Germany.


Corticothalamic slow oscillations of neuronal activity determine internal brain states. At least in the cortex, the electrical activity is associated with large neuronal Ca(2+) transients. Here we implemented an optogenetic approach to explore causal features of the generation of slow oscillation-associated Ca(2+) waves in the in vivo mouse brain. We demonstrate that brief optogenetic stimulation (3-20 ms) of a local group of layer 5 cortical neurons is sufficient for the induction of global brain Ca(2+) waves. These Ca(2+) waves are evoked in an all-or-none manner, exhibit refractoriness during repetitive stimulation, and propagate over long distances. By local optogenetic stimulation, we demonstrate that evoked Ca(2+) waves initially invade the cortex, followed by a secondary recruitment of the thalamus. Together, our results establish that synchronous activity in a small cluster of layer 5 cortical neurons can initiate a global neuronal wave of activity suited for long-range corticothalamic integration.

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