Sleep spindles are distinctive electroencephalographic (EEG) oscillations emerging during non-rapid-eye-movement sleep (NREMS) that have been implicated in multiple brain functions, including sleep quality, sensory gating, learning, and memory. Despite considerable knowledge about the mechanisms underlying these neuronal rhythms, their function remains poorly understood and current views are largely based on correlational evidence. Here, we review recent studies in humans and rodents that have begun to broaden our understanding of the role of spindles in the normal and disordered brain. We show that newly identified molecular substrates of spindle oscillations, in combination with evolving technological progress, offer novel targets and tools to selectively manipulate spindles and dissect their role in sleep-dependent processes.
Keywords: SK channels; calcium channels; electroencephalography; optogenetics; sleep waves; synaptic plasticity; thalamocortical system.
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