During sleep, changes in brain rhythms and neuromodulator levels in cortex modify the properties of individual neurons and the network as a whole. In principle, network-level interactions during sleep can be studied by observing covariation in spontaneous activity between neurons. Spontaneous activity, however, reflects only a portion of the effective functional connectivity that is activated by external and internal inputs (e.g., sensory stimulation, motor behavior, and mental activity), and it has been shown that neural responses are less correlated during external sensory stimulation than during spontaneous activity. Here, we took advantage of the unique property that the auditory cortex continues to respond to sounds during sleep and used external acoustic stimuli to activate cortical networks for studying neural interactions during sleep. We found that during slow-wave sleep (SWS), local (neuron-neuron) correlations are not reduced by acoustic stimulation remaining higher than in wakefulness and rapid eye movement sleep and remaining similar to spontaneous activity correlations. This high level of correlations during SWS complements previous work finding elevated global (local field potential-local field potential) correlations during sleep. Contrary to the prediction that slow oscillations in SWS would increase neural correlations during spontaneous activity, we found little change in neural correlations outside of periods of acoustic stimulation. Rather, these findings suggest that functional connections recruited in sound processing are modified during SWS and that slow rhythms, which in general are suppressed by sensory stimulation, are not the sole mechanism leading to elevated network correlations during sleep.
- Auditory cortex
ASJC Scopus subject areas