Greenberg A, Dickson CT
Neuroimage 2013 Dec;83:782-94
The neocortical slow oscillation (SO; ~1Hz) of non-REM sleep and anesthesia reflects synchronized network activity composed of alternating active and silent (ON/OFF) phases at the local network and cellular level. The SO itself shows self-organized spatiotemporal dynamics as it appears to originate at unique foci on each cycle and then propagates across the cortical surface. During sleep, this rhythm is relevant for neuroplastic processes mediating memory consolidation especially since its enhancement by slow, rhythmic electrical fields improves subsequent recall. However, the neurobiological mechanism by which spontaneous or enhanced SO activity might operate on memory traces is unknown. Here we show a series of original results, using cycle to cycle tracking across multiple neocortical sites in urethane anesthetized rats: The spontaneous spatiotemporal dynamics of the SO are complex, showing interfering propagation patterns in the anterior-to-posterior plane. These patterns compete for expression and tend to alternate following phase resets that take place during the silent OFF phase of the SO. Applying sinusoidal electrical field stimulation to the anterior pole of the cerebral cortex progressively entrained local field, gamma, and multi-unit activity at all sites, while disrupting the coordination of endogenous SO activity. Field stimulation also biased propagation in the anterior-to-posterior direction and more notably, enhanced the long-range gamma synchrony between cortical regions. These results are the first to show that changes to slow wave dynamics cause enhancements in high frequency cortico-cortical communication and provide mechanistic clues into how the SO is relevant for sleep-dependent memory consolidation.