Reconstructing mammalian sleep dynamics with data assimilation

PLoS Comput Biol. 2012;8(11):e1002788. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1002788. Epub 2012 Nov 29.


Data assimilation is a valuable tool in the study of any complex system, where measurements are incomplete, uncertain, or both. It enables the user to take advantage of all available information including experimental measurements and short-term model forecasts of a system. Although data assimilation has been used to study other biological systems, the study of the sleep-wake regulatory network has yet to benefit from this toolset. We present a data assimilation framework based on the unscented Kalman filter (UKF) for combining sparse measurements together with a relatively high-dimensional nonlinear computational model to estimate the state of a model of the sleep-wake regulatory system. We demonstrate with simulation studies that a few noisy variables can be used to accurately reconstruct the remaining hidden variables. We introduce a metric for ranking relative partial observability of computational models, within the UKF framework, that allows us to choose the optimal variables for measurement and also provides a methodology for optimizing framework parameters such as UKF covariance inflation. In addition, we demonstrate a parameter estimation method that allows us to track non-stationary model parameters and accommodate slow dynamics not included in the UKF filter model. Finally, we show that we can even use observed discretized sleep-state, which is not one of the model variables, to reconstruct model state and estimate unknown parameters. Sleep is implicated in many neurological disorders from epilepsy to schizophrenia, but simultaneous observation of the many brain components that regulate this behavior is difficult. We anticipate that this data assimilation framework will enable better understanding of the detailed interactions governing sleep and wake behavior and provide for better, more targeted, therapies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Animals
  • Computational Biology / methods*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Models, Biological*
  • Rats
  • Sleep / physiology*
  • Wakefulness / physiology