Sleep restores an optimal computational regime in cortical networks

Yifan Xu, Aidan Schneider, Ralf Wessel, Keith B. Hengen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Sleep is assumed to subserve homeostatic processes in the brain; however, the set point around which sleep tunes circuit computations is unknown. Slow-wave activity (SWA) is commonly used to reflect the homeostatic aspect of sleep; although it can indicate sleep pressure, it does not explain why animals need sleep. This study aimed to assess whether criticality may be the computational set point of sleep. By recording cortical neuron activity continuously for 10–14 d in freely behaving rats, we show that normal waking experience progressively disrupts criticality and that sleep functions to restore critical dynamics. Criticality is perturbed in a context-dependent manner, and waking experience is causal in driving these effects. The degree of deviation from criticality predicts future sleep/wake behavior more accurately than SWA, behavioral history or other neural measures. Our results demonstrate that perturbation and recovery of criticality is a network homeostatic mechanism consistent with the core, restorative function of sleep.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)328-338
Number of pages11
JournalNature neuroscience
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2024


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