Corticothalamic resonance, states of vigilance and mentation

Neuroscience. 2000;101(2):243-76. doi: 10.1016/s0306-4522(00)00353-5.


During various states of vigilance, brain oscillations are grouped together through reciprocal connections between the neocortex and thalamus. The coherent activity in corticothalamic networks, under the control of brainstem and forebrain modulatory systems, requires investigations in intact-brain animals. During behavioral states associated with brain disconnection from the external world, the large-scale synchronization of low-frequency oscillations is accompanied by the inhibition of synaptic transmission through thalamocortical neurons. Despite the coherent oscillatory activity, on the functional side there is dissociation between the thalamus and neocortex during slow-wave sleep. While dorsal thalamic neurons undergo inhibitory processes due to the prolonged spike-bursts of thalamic reticular neurons, the cortex displays, periodically, a rich spontaneous activity and preserves the capacity to process internally generated signals that dominate the state of sleep. In vivo experiments using simultaneous intracellular recordings from thalamic and cortical neurons show that short-term plasticity processes occur after prolonged and rhythmic spike-bursts fired by thalamic and cortical neurons during slow-wave sleep oscillations. This may serve to support resonant phenomena and reorganize corticothalamic circuitry, determine which synaptic modifications, formed during the waking state, are to be consolidated and generate a peculiar kind of dreaming mentation. In contrast to the long-range coherent oscillations that occur at low frequencies during slow-wave sleep, the sustained fast oscillations that characterize alert states are synchronized over restricted territories and are associated with discrete and differentiated patterns of conscious events.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arousal / physiology*
  • Biological Clocks / physiology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / cytology
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Neural Pathways / cytology
  • Neural Pathways / physiology*
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Thalamus / cytology
  • Thalamus / physiology*