Grouping of brain rhythms in corticothalamic systems

Neuroscience. 2006;137(4):1087-106. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2005.10.029. Epub 2005 Dec 15.


Different brain rhythms, with both low-frequency and fast-frequency, are grouped within complex wave-sequences. Instead of dissecting various frequency bands of the major oscillations that characterize the brain electrical activity during states of vigilance, it is conceptually more rewarding to analyze their coalescence, which is due to neuronal interactions in corticothalamic systems. This concept of unified brain rhythms does not only include low-frequency sleep oscillations but also fast (beta and gamma) activities that are not exclusively confined to brain-activated states, since they also occur during slow-wave sleep. The major factor behind this coalescence is the cortically generated slow oscillation that, through corticocortical and corticothalamic drives, is effective in grouping other brain rhythms. The experimental evidence for unified oscillations derived from simultaneous intracellular recordings of cortical and thalamic neurons in vivo, while recent studies in humans using global methods provided congruent results of grouping different types of slow and fast oscillatory activities. Far from being epiphenomena, spontaneous brain rhythms have an important role in synaptic plasticity. The role of slow-wave sleep oscillation in consolidating memory traces acquired during wakefulness is being explored in both experimental animals and human subjects. Highly synchronized sleep oscillations may develop into seizures that are generated intracortically and lead to inhibition of thalamocortical neurons, via activation of thalamic reticular neurons, which may explain the obliteration of signals from the external world and unconsciousness during some paroxysmal states.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Dreams / physiology
  • Electroencephalography
  • Humans
  • Memory / physiology
  • Models, Animal
  • Oscillometry
  • Sleep / physiology
  • Thalamus / physiology*