Slow wave activity (SWA) is a characteristic brain oscillation in sleep and quiet wakefulness. Although the cell types contributing to SWA genesis are not yet identified, the principal role of neurons in the emergence of this essential cognitive mechanism has not been questioned. To address the possibility of astrocytic involvement in SWA, we used a transgenic rat line expressing a calcium sensitive fluorescent protein in both astrocytes and interneurons and simultaneously imaged astrocytic and neuronal activity in vivo. Here we demonstrate, for the first time, that the astrocyte network display synchronized recurrent activity in vivo coupled to UP states measured by field recording and neuronal calcium imaging. Furthermore, we present evidence that extensive synchronization of the astrocytic network precedes the spatial build-up of neuronal synchronization. The earlier extensive recruitment of astrocytes in the synchronized activity is reinforced by the observation that neurons surrounded by active astrocytes are more likely to join SWA, suggesting causality. Further supporting this notion, we demonstrate that blockade of astrocytic gap junctional communication or inhibition of astrocytic Ca2+ transients reduces the ratio of both astrocytes and neurons involved in SWA. These in vivo findings conclusively suggest a causal role of the astrocytic syncytium in SWA generation.
- cellular neuroscience