Slow wave sleep is associated with slow oscillations and high-amplitude, low-frequency local field potential and electroencephalogram signals. Rapid eye movement sleep is associated with low-amplitude high-frequency cortical activity. How does the brain switch between these global states?
The authors of the paper “Burst Spiking of a Single Cortical Neuron Modifies Global Brain State” (published May 1, 2009 in Science) asked if electrically stimulating a single neuron in the cerebral cortex could modify the global brain state. They used the whole cell patch clamp technique to record the electrical activity of individual neurons and stimulate them 50 to 100 times per second, which resulted in evoking from 200 to 1000 action potentials in high-frequency bursts.
The research team was able to switch individual neurons and the global brain state between slow wave sleep and rapid eye movement sleep when high-frequency bursting was evoked in an individual neuron. However they apparently didn’t attempt to do more than speculate on the mechanisms that enabled this switch.
In sum, the authors showed that burst spiking induced in a single neuron can trigger a switch in the global brain state but the mechanisms underlying this switch remain to be determined.
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