Fengfei Ding, John O’Donnell, Qiwu Xu, Ning Kang, Nanna Goldman, Maiken Nedergaard
Wakefulness is driven by the widespread release of neuromodulators by the ascending arousal system. Yet, it is unclear how these substances orchestrate state-dependent, global changes in neuronal activity. Here, we show that neuromodulators induce increases in the extracellular K+ concentration ([K+]e) in cortical slices electrically silenced by tetrodotoxin. In vivo, arousal was linked to AMPA receptor–independent elevations of [K+]e concomitant with decreases in [Ca2+]e, [Mg2+]e, [H+]e, and the extracellular volume. Opposite, natural sleep and anesthesia reduced [K+]e while increasing [Ca2+]e, [Mg2+]e, and [H+]e as well as the extracellular volume. Local cortical activity of sleeping mice could be readily converted to the stereotypical electroencephalography pattern of wakefulness by simply imposing a change in the extracellular ion composition. Thus, extracellular ions control the state-dependent patterns of neural activity.
Science 29 Apr 2016:Vol. 352, Issue 6285, pp. 550-555 DOI: 10.1126/science.aad4821