Cortical networks exhibit large shifts in spontaneous dynamics depending on the vigilance state. Waking and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep are characterized by ongoing irregular activity of cortical neurons while during slow wave sleep (SWS) these neurons show synchronous alterations between silent (OFF) and active (ON) periods. The network dynamics underlying these phenomena are not fully understood. Additional information about the state of cortical networks can be obtained by evaluating evoked cortical responses during the sleep-wake cycle. We measured local field potentials (LFP) and multi-unit activity (MUA) in the cortex in response to repeated brief optogenetic stimulation of thalamocortical afferents. Both LFP and MUA responses were considerably increased in sleep compared to waking, with larger responses during SWS than during REM sleep. The strongly increased cortical response in SWS is discussed within the context of SWS-associated neuro-modulatory tone that may reduce feedforward inhibition. Responses to stimuli were larger during SWS-OFF periods than during SWS-ON periods. SWS responses showed clear daily fluctuation correlated to light-dark cycle, but no reaction to increased sleep need following sleep deprivation. Potential homeostatic synaptic plasticity was either absent or masked by large vigilance-state effects.
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