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Volume 10 (2010), Pages 1634-1645
Mini-Review Article

Integrated Brain Circuits: Neuron-Astrocyte Interaction in Sleep-Related Rhythmogenesis

1Department of Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA, USA
2Department of Psychiatry, McLean Hospital, Belmont, MA, USA
3Department of Brain and Cognitive Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, USA
4Department of Neuroscience and Brain Technologies, Italian Institute of Technology (IIT), Genova, Italy
5Department of Neuroscience, Tufts University, Boston, MA, USA

Received 27 April 2010; Revised 2 June 2010; Accepted 4 June 2010

Academic Editor: Sergi Ferre

Copyright © 2010 Michael M. Halassa et al.


Although astrocytes are increasingly recognized as important modulators of neuronal excitability and information transfer at the synapse, whether these cells regulate neuronal network activity has only recently started to be investigated. In this article, we highlight the role of astrocytes in the modulation of circuit function with particular focus on sleep-related rhythmogenesis. We discuss recent data showing that these glial cells regulate slow oscillations, a specific thalamocortical activity that characterizes non-REM sleep, and sleep-associated behaviors. Based on these findings, we predict that our understanding of the genesis and tuning of thalamocortical rhythms will necessarily go through an integrated view of brain circuits in which non-neuronal cells can play important neuromodulatory roles.