The sleeping brain exhibits characteristic slow-wave activity which decays over the course of the night. This decay is thought to result from homeostatic synaptic downscaling. Transcranial electrical stimulation can entrain slow-wave oscillations (SWO) in the human electro-encephalogram (EEG). A computational model of the underlying mechanism predicts that firing rates are predominantly increased during stimulation. Assuming that synaptic homeostasis is driven by average firing rates, we expected an acceleration of synaptic downscaling during stimulation, which is compensated by a reduced drive after stimulation. We show that 25 minutes of transcranial electrical stimulation, as predicted, reduced the decay of SWO in the remainder of the night. Anatomically accurate simulations of the field intensities on human cortex precisely matched the effect size in different EEG electrodes. Together these results suggest a mechanistic link between electrical stimulation and accelerated synaptic homeostasis in human sleep.
Reato, D., Gasca, F., Datta, A., Bikson, M., Marshall, L. & Parra, L. C. (2013). Transcranial Electrical Stimulation Accelerates Human Sleep Homeostasis. PLoS Computational Biology, 9(2), e1002898. doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1002898.