Cross-frequency slow oscillation–spindle coupling in a biophysically realistic thalamocortical neural mass model
Nikola Jajcay, Caglar Cakan, Klaus Obermayer
Sleep manifests itself by the spontaneous emergence of characteristic oscillatory rhythms, which often time-lock and are implicated in the memory formation. Here, we analyze a neural mass model of the thalamocortical loop of which the cortical node can generate slow oscillations (approx. 1 Hz) while its thalamic component can generate sleep spindles of σ-band activity (12–15 Hz). We study the dynamics for different coupling strengths between the thalamic and cortical nodes, for different conductance values of the thalamic node’s potassium leak and anomalous rectifying currents, and for different parameter regimes of the cortical node. The latter are: (1) a low activity (DOWN) state with noise-induced, transient excursions into a high activity (UP) state, (2) an adaptation induced slow oscillation limit cycle with alternating UP and DOWN states, and (3) a high activity (UP) state with noise-induced, transient excursions into the low activity (DOWN) state. During UP states, thalamic spindling is abolished or reduced. During DOWN states, the thalamic node generates sleep spindles, which in turn can cause DOWN to UP transitions in the cortical node. Consequently, this leads to spindle-induced UP state transitions in parameter regime (1), thalamic spindles induced in some but not all DOWN states in regime (2), and thalamic spindles following UP to DOWN transitions in regime (3). The spindle-induced σ-band activity in the cortical node, however, is typically strongest during the UP state, which follows a DOWN state “window of opportunity” for spindling. When the cortical node is parametrized in regime (3), the model well explains the interactions between slow oscillations and sleep spindles observed experimentally during Non-Rapid Eye Movement sleep. The model is computationally efficient and can be integrated into large-scale modeling frameworks to study spatial aspects like sleep wave propagation.