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      Processes Underlying Sleep Regulation

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          Sleep is regulated by homeostatic, circadian and ultradian processes. Slow waves and sleep spindles are EEG markers of sleep processes which have counterparts at the cellular level. The interaction of homeostatic and circadian sleep regulation has been formalized in the two-process model and validated in experiments. Sleep is not only a global brain phenomenon but also a regional cerebral process whose intensity may be influenced by prior activity during waking.

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          Most cited references 8

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          Sleep and arousal: thalamocortical mechanisms.

           T Bal,  D McCormick (1996)
          Thalamocortical activity exhibits two distinct states: (a) synchronized rhythmic activity in the form of delta, spindle, and other slow waves during EEG-synchronized sleep and (b) tonic activity during waking and rapid-eye-movement sleep. Spindle waves are generated largely through a cyclical interaction between thalamocortical and thalamic reticular neurons involving both the intrinsic membrane properties of these cells and their anatomical interconnections. Specific alterations in the interactions between these cells can result in the generation of paroxysmal events resembling absence seizures in children. The release of several different neurotransmitters from the brain stem, hypothalamus, basal forebrain, and cerebral cortex results in a depolarization of thalamocortical and thalamic reticular neurons and an enhanced excitability in many cortical pyramidal cells, thereby suppressing the generation of sleep rhythms and promoting a state that is conducive to sensory processing and cognition.
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            Paradoxical timing of the circadian rhythm of sleep propensity serves to consolidate sleep and wakefulness in humans.

            The contribution of the circadian pacemaker and the sleep homeostat to sleep tendency and consolidation was quantified by forced desynchrony of the sleep-wake cycle from the circadian pacemaker in eight men who lived in time-isolation for 33-36 days. Analysis of 175 polygraphically recorded sleep episodes revealed that the circadian pacemaker and the sleep homeostat contribute about equally to sleep consolidation, and that the phase relationship between these oscillatory processes during entrainment to the 24-h day is uniquely timed to facilitate the ability to maintain a consolidated bout of sleep at night and a consolidated bout of wakefulness throughout the day.
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              Sleep-related variations of membrane potential in the lateral geniculate body relay neurons of the cat.

              Membrane potential of lateral geniculate body relay neurons was monitored in chronic cats during the sleep-waking cycle. Neurons were tonically depolarized throughout paradoxical (P) sleep and the maximal level of polarization occurred during slow (S) sleep (mean difference of membrane potential between S and P sleep: + 10.2 +/- 1.3 mV, n = 6, range: 8-12 mV). Some features of the spontaneous activity of S and P sleep are briefly discussed in relation to the level of membrane potential. In particular it is suggested that the phasic depolarizations underlying the bursts of action potentials during S sleep, and which are reproduced retinal cell axons impinging upon the hyperpolarized membrane.

                Author and article information

                Horm Res Paediatr
                Hormone Research in Paediatrics
                S. Karger AG
                March 1998
                16 March 1998
                : 49
                : 3-4
                : 114-117
                Institute of Pharmacology, University of Zürich, Switzerland
                23156 Horm Res 1998;49:114–117
                © 1998 S. Karger AG, Basel

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                Page count
                Figures: 1, References: 49, Pages: 4


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