Daytime central thalamic deep brain stimulation modulates sleep dynamics in the severely injured brain: Mechanistic insights and a novel framework for alpha-delta sleep generation
Magnetic Resonance Imaging
Persistent Vegetative State
Copyright © 2019 Gottshall, Adams, Forgacs and Schiff. Loss of organized sleep electrophysiology is a characteristic finding following severe brain injury. The return of structured elements of sleep architecture has been associated with positive prognosis across injury etiologies, suggesting a role for sleep dynamics as biomarkers of wakeful neuronal circuit function. In a continuing study of one minimally conscious state patient studied over the course of ∼8 1/2 years, we sought to investigate whether changes in daytime brain activation induced by central thalamic deep brain stimulation (CT-DBS) influenced sleep electrophysiology. In this patient subject, we previously reported significant improvements in sleep electrophysiology during 5 1/2 years of CT-DBS treatment, including increased sleep spindle frequency and SWS delta power. We now present novel findings that many of these improvements in sleep electrophysiology regress following CT-DBS discontinuation; these regressions in sleep features correlate with a significant decrease in behavioral responsiveness. We also observe the re-emergence of alpha-delta sleep, which had been previously suppressed by daytime CT-DBS in this patient subject. Importantly, CT-DBS was only active during the daytime and has been proposed to mediate recovery of consciousness by driving synaptic activity across frontostriatal systems through the enhancement of thalamocortical output. Accordingly, the improvement of sleep dynamics during daytime CT-DBS and their subsequent regression following CT-DBS discontinuation implicates wakeful synaptic activity as a robust modulator of sleep electrophysiology. We interpret these findings in the context of the "synaptic homeostasis hypothesis," whereby we propose that daytime upregulation of thalamocortical output in the severely injured brain may facilitate organized frontocortical circuit activation and yield net synaptic potentiation during wakefulness, providing a homeostatic drive that reconstitutes sleep dynamics over time. Furthermore, we consider common large-scale network dynamics across several neuropsychiatric disorders in which alpha-delta sleep has been documented, allowing us to formulate a novel mechanistic framework for alpha-delta sleep generation. We conclude that the bi-directional modulation of sleep electrophysiology by daytime thalamocortical activity in the severely injured brain: (1) emphasizes the cyclical carry-over effects of state-dependent circuit activation on large-scale brain dynamics, and (2) further implicates sleep electrophysiology as a sensitive indicator of wakeful brain activation and covert functional recovery in the severely injured brain.
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