The dynamics of cortical neuronal activity in the first minutes after spontaneous awakening in rats and mice

Sleep. 2014 Aug 1;37(8):1337-47. doi: 10.5665/sleep.3926.


Study objective: Upon awakening from sleep, a fully awake brain state is not reestablished immediately, but the origin and physiological properties of the distinct brain state during the first min after awakening are unclear. To investigate whether neuronal firing immediately upon arousal is different from the remaining part of the waking episode, we recorded and analyzed the dynamics of cortical neuronal activity in the first 15 min after spontaneous awakenings in freely moving rats and mice.

Design: Intracortical recordings of the local field potential and neuronal activity in freely-moving mice and rats.

Setting: Basic sleep research laboratory.

Patients or participants: WKY adult male rats, C57BL/6 adult male mice.

Interventions: N/A.

Measurements and results: In both species the average population spiking activity upon arousal was initially low, though substantial variability in the dynamics of firing activity was apparent between individual neurons. A distinct population of neurons was found that was virtually silent in the first min upon awakening. The overall lower population spiking initially after awakening was associated with the occurrence of brief periods of generalized neuronal silence (OFF periods), whose frequency peaked immediately after awakening and then progressively declined. OFF periods incidence upon awakening was independent of ongoing locomotor activity but was sensitive to immediate preceding sleep/wake history. Notably, in both rats and mice if sleep before a waking episode was enriched in rapid eye movement sleep, the incidence of OFF periods was initially higher as compared to those waking episodes preceded mainly by nonrapid eye movement sleep.

Conclusion: We speculate that an intrusion of sleep-like patterns of cortical neuronal activity into the wake state immediately after awakening may account for some of the changes in the behavior and cognitive function typical of what is referred to as sleep inertia.

Citation: Vyazovskiy VV, Cui N, Rodriguez AV, Funk C, Cirelli C, Tononi G. The dynamics of cortical neuronal activity in the first minutes after spontaneous awakening in rats and mice.

Keywords: cortical neuronal activity; mice; rats; sleep; sleep inertia.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials
  • Animals
  • Arousal / physiology
  • Cerebral Cortex / cytology*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred WKY
  • Sleep / physiology*
  • Sleep, REM / physiology
  • Time Factors
  • Wakefulness / physiology*