Presence of a chaotic region at the sleep-wake transition in a simplified thalamocortical circuit model

Kush Paul, Lawrence J. Cauller, Daniel A. Llano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Sleep and wakefulness are characterized by distinct states of thalamocortical network oscillations. The complex interplay of ionic conductances within the thalamo-reticular-cortical network give rise to these multiple modes of activity and a rapid transition exists between these modes. To better understand this transition, we constructed a simplified computational model based on physiological recordings and physiologically realistic parameters of a three-neuron network containing a thalamocortical cell, a thalamic reticular neuron, and a corticothalamic cell. The network can assume multiple states of oscillatory activity, resembling sleep, wakefulness, and the transition between these two. We found that during the transition period, but not during other states, thalamic and cortical neurons displayed chaotic dynamics, based on the presence of strange attractors, estimation of positive Lyapunov exponents and the presence of a fractal dimension in the spike trains. These dynamics were quantitatively dependent on certain features of the network, such as the presence of corticothalamic feedback and the strength of inhibition between the thalamic reticular nucleus and thalamocortical neurons. These data suggest that chaotic dynamics facilitate a rapid transition between sleep and wakefulness and produce a series of experimentally testable predictions to further investigate the events occurring during the sleep-wake transition period.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number91
JournalFrontiers in Computational Neuroscience
Issue numberSEP
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016


  • Chaos
  • Computational model
  • Nonlinear dynamics
  • Thalamocortical

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience (miscellaneous)
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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