During sleep and anesthesia, large groups of neurons throughout the entire cortex activate rhythmically producing wavefronts of activity referred to as slow-wave activity (SWA). In the arousal process, the brain restores its integrative and complex activity. The network mechanisms underlying this global state transition remain however to be elucidated. Here we investigated the network features shaping the SWA under fading anesthesia. Using electrocorticographical recordings of wide cortical areas of the mouse brain, we developed a quantitative measure of the anesthesia level based on slow-wave frequency and complexity. At deep anesthesia, we document a stringent alternation of posterior-anterior-posterior modes of propagation. With fading anesthesia, SWA evolves to produce a plethora of metastable spatiotemporal patterns. A network model of spiking neurons reproduced the data using short-range connectivity, subcortical input and a local activity-dependent adaptation. The emergence from deep anesthesia does not require modifying the connectivity, but small changes in the local excitability of cortical cell assemblies, further supporting the hypothesis of a tight bound between scales in the brain.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience