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Sequential neural activity in primary motor cortex during sleep

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Wei Xu, Felipe De Carvalho, Professor Andrew Jackson



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Sequential firing of neurons during sleep is thought to play a role in the consolidation of learning, but direct evidence for such sequence replay is limited to only a few brain areas and sleep states mainly in rodents. Using a custom-designed wearable neural data logger and chronically implanted electrodes, we made long-term recordings of neural activity in the primary motor cortex of 2 female non-human primates during free behavior and natural sleep. We used the local field potential (LFP) spectrogram to characterize sleep cycles, and examined firing rates, correlations and sequential firing of neurons at different frequency bands through the cycle. Slow-wave sleep (SWS) was characterized by low neural firing rates and high synchrony reflecting slow oscillations between cortical down and up states. However, the order in which neurons entered up states was similar to the sequence of neural activity observed at low frequencies during waking behavior. In addition, we found evidence for brief bursts of theta oscillation, associated with non-SWS states during which neurons fired in strikingly regular sequential order phase-locked to the LFP. Theta sequences were preserved between waking and sleep, but appeared not to resemble the order of neural activity observed at lower frequencies. The sequential firing of neurons during slow oscillations and theta bursts may contribute to the consolidation of procedural memories during sleep.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Xu W, de Carvalho D, Jackson A

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Neuroscience

Year: 2019

Volume: 39

Issue: 19

Pages: 3698-3712

Print publication date: 08/05/2019

Online publication date: 06/03/2019

Acceptance date: 02/02/2019

Date deposited: 13/03/2019

ISSN (print): 0270-6474

ISSN (electronic): 1529-2401

Publisher: Society for Neuroscience


DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1408-18.2019


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Funder referenceFunder name
Wellcome Trust