The correlation between sleep integrity and attentional performance is normally interpreted as poor sleep causing impaired attention. Here, we provide an alternative explanation for this correlation: common thalamic circuits regulate sensory processing across sleep and attention, and their disruption may lead to correlated dysfunction. Using multi-electrode recordings in mice, we find that rate and rhythmicity of thalamic reticular nucleus (TRN) neurons are predictive of their functional organization in sleep and suggestive of their participation in sensory processing across states. Surprisingly, TRN neurons associated with spindles in sleep are also associated with alpha oscillations during attention. As such, we propose that common thalamic circuit principles regulate sensory processing in a state-invariant manner and that in certain disorders, targeting these circuits may be a more viable therapeutic strategy than considering individual states in isolation.
Keywords: attention; sleep spindles; thalamic inhibition; thalamic reticular nucleus.