Skip to main content

Dynamics of the thalamo-cortical system driven by pulsed sensory stimulation

There exists a large body of evidence pointing to an essential role of sleep in memory consolidation [13]. In particular non-REM sleep seems to be important for consolidating declarative memories [4]. Boosting the so-called slow oscillations (<1 Hz) during non-REM sleep via transcranial electric stimulation leads to a potentiation of memory [5]. It has also been demonstrated that slow oscillations can be induced by optogenetic, magnetic and acoustic stimulation [68]. Here we present data from human sleep studies and modeling results on the thalamo-cortical system under sensory stimulation, that give new clues for effective stimulation protocols. We use a population model that exhibits important features of brain activity during non-REM sleep, e.g. spindles, cortical

slow oscillations with gamma activity and clock-like delta oscillations. The model aims at reproducing evoked responses of auditory and visual stimuli at several frequencies. We extend previous results on the phase-dependent response of isolated cortex [9] to stimuli which are time-locked to spindle and slow oscillation events and test the hypothesis that the main factor determining thalamic gating properties in non-REM sleep is the phase of the cortical slow oscillation.


  1. Stickgold R: Sleep-dependent memory consolidation. Nature. 2005, 437 (7063): 1272-1278. 10.1038/nature04286.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  2. Diekelmann S, Born J: The memory function of sleep. Nat Rev Neurosci. 2010, 11 (2): 114-126.

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  3. Marshall L, Born J: The contribution of sleep to hippocampus-dependent memory consolidation. Trends Cogn Sci. 2007, 11 (10): 442-450. 10.1016/j.tics.2007.09.001.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  4. Plihal W, Born J: Effects of early and late nocturnal sleep on declarative and procedural memory. J Cognitive Neurosci. 1997, 9 (4): 534-547. 10.1162/jocn.1997.9.4.534.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  5. Marshall L, Helgadottir H, Mölle M, Born J: Boosting slow oscillations during sleep potentiates memory. Nature. 2006, 444 (7119): 610-613. 10.1038/nature05278.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  6. Massimini M, Ferrarelli F, Esser SK, Riedner BA, Huber R, Murphy M, Peterson MJ, Tononi G: Triggering sleep slow waves by transcranial magnetic stimulation. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2007, 104 (20): 8496-8501. 10.1073/pnas.0702495104.

    Article  PubMed Central  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  7. Kuki T, Ohshiro T, Ito S, Ji Z, Fukazawa Y, Matsuzaka Y, Yawo H, Mushiake H: Frequency-dependent entrainment of neocortical slow oscillation to repeated optogenetic stimulation in the anesthetized rat. Neurosci Res. 2012

    Google Scholar 

  8. Ngo HVV, Claussen JC, Born J, Mölle M: Induction of slow oscillations by rhythmic acoustic stimulation. J Sleep Res. 2013, 22: 22-31. 10.1111/j.1365-2869.2012.01039.x.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  9. Weigenand A, Martinetz T, Claussen JC: The phase response of the cortical slow oscillation. Cogn Neurodyn. 2012, 6 (4): 367-375. 10.1007/s11571-012-9207-z.

    Article  PubMed Central  PubMed  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Arne Weigenand.

Rights and permissions

This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Weigenand, A., Costa, M.S., Ngo, HV. et al. Dynamics of the thalamo-cortical system driven by pulsed sensory stimulation. BMC Neurosci 14 (Suppl 1), P67 (2013).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • DOI: