Sleep strongly affects synaptic strength, making it critical for cognition, especially learning, and memory formation. Whether and how sleep deprivation modulates human brain physiology and cognition is not well understood. Here we examined how overnight sleep deprivation vs overnight sufficient sleep affects (a) cortical excitability, measured by transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), (b) inducibility of LTP- and-LTD-like plasticity via transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), and (c) learning, memory and attention. The results suggest that sleep deprivation upscales cortical excitability due to enhanced glutamate-related cortical facilitation and decreased and/or reversed GABAergic cortical inhibition. Furthermore, tDCS-induced LTP-like plasticity abolishes while the inhibitory LTD-like plasticity converts to excitatory LTP-like plasticity under sleep deprivation. This is associated with increased EEG theta oscillations due to sleep pressure. Finally, we show that learning and memory formation, behavioral counterparts of plasticity, and working memory and attention, which rely on cortical excitability, are impaired during sleep deprivation. Our data suggest that upscaled brain excitability, and altered plasticity, due to sleep deprivation, are associated with impaired cognitive performance.
The data files generated in this study are publicly available at https://osf.io/kve6d via Open Science Foundation (OSF).
No external funding was received for this work
Human subjects: This study conformed to the Declaration of Helsinki guidelines and was approved by the Institutional Review Board (ethics code: 99). Participants gave informed consent and received monetary compensation.
- Martin Dresler, Radboud University Medical Centre, Netherlands
© 2022, Salehinejad et al.
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Basal forebrain cholinergic neurons modulate how organisms process and respond to environmental stimuli through impacts on arousal, attention, and memory. It is unknown, however, whether basal forebrain cholinergic neurons are directly involved in conditioned behavior, independent of secondary roles in the processing of external stimuli. Using fluorescent imaging, we found that cholinergic neurons are active during behavioral responding for a reward – even prior to reward delivery and in the absence of discrete stimuli. Photostimulation of basal forebrain cholinergic neurons, or their terminals in the basolateral amygdala (BLA), selectively promoted conditioned responding (licking), but not unconditioned behavior nor innate motor outputs. In vivo electrophysiological recordings during cholinergic photostimulation revealed reward-contingency-dependent suppression of BLA neural activity, but not prefrontal cortex. Finally, ex vivo experiments demonstrated that photostimulation of cholinergic terminals suppressed BLA projection neuron activity via monosynaptic muscarinic receptor signaling, while also facilitating firing in BLA GABAergic interneurons. Taken together, we show that the neural and behavioral effects of basal forebrain cholinergic activation are modulated by reward contingency in a target-specific manner.
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