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Schreiner, Thomas ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-2030-5998; Kaufmann, Elisabeth; Noachtar, Soheyl; Mehrkens, Jan-Hinnerk and Staudigl, Tobias ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-2885-1280 (2022): The human thalamus orchestrates neocortical oscillations during NREM sleep. In: Nature Communications, Vol. 13, 5231 [PDF, 4MB]


A hallmark of non-rapid eye movement sleep is the coordinated interplay of slow oscillations (SOs) and sleep spindles. Traditionally, a cortico-thalamo-cortical loop is suggested to coordinate these rhythms: neocortically-generated SOs trigger spindles in the thalamus that are projected back to neocortex. Here, we used intrathalamic recordings from human epilepsy patients to test this canonical interplay. We show that SOs in the anterior thalamus precede neocortical SOs (peak −50 ms), whereas concurrently-recorded SOs in the mediodorsal thalamus are led by neocortical SOs (peak +50 ms). Sleep spindles, detected in both thalamic nuclei, preceded their neocortical counterparts (peak −100 ms) and were initiated during early phases of thalamic SOs. Our findings indicate an active role of the anterior thalamus in organizing sleep rhythms in the neocortex and highlight the functional diversity of thalamic nuclei in humans. The thalamic coordination of sleep oscillations could have broad implications for the mechanisms underlying memory consolidation.

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