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Open Access Research article

Plumes of neuronal activity propagate in three dimensions through the nuclear avian brain

Gabriël JL Beckers12*, Jacqueline van der Meij1, John A Lesku13 and Niels C Rattenborg1*

Author Affiliations

1 Avian Sleep Group, Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, Eberhard-Gwinner-Strasse 11, 82319 Seewiesen, Germany

2 Cognitive Neurobiology and Helmholtz Institute, Departments of Psychology and Biology, Utrecht University, PO Box 80086, 3508 TB Utrecht, The Netherlands

3 Department of Zoology, La Trobe University, Kingsbury Drive, Melbourne VIC 3086, Australia

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BMC Biology 2014, 12:16  doi:10.1186/1741-7007-12-16

Published: 28 February 2014

Abstract

Background

In mammals, the slow-oscillations of neuronal membrane potentials (reflected in the electroencephalogram as high-amplitude, slow-waves), which occur during non-rapid eye movement sleep and anesthesia, propagate across the neocortex largely as two-dimensional traveling waves. However, it remains unknown if the traveling nature of slow-waves is unique to the laminar cytoarchitecture and associated computational properties of the neocortex.

Results

We demonstrate that local field potential slow-waves and correlated multiunit activity propagate as complex three-dimensional plumes of neuronal activity through the avian brain, owing to its non-laminar, nuclear neuronal cytoarchitecture.

Conclusions

The traveling nature of slow-waves is not dependent upon the laminar organization of the neocortex, and is unlikely to subserve functions unique to this pattern of neuronal organization. Finally, the three-dimensional geometry of propagating plumes may reflect computational properties not found in mammals that contributed to the evolution of nuclear neuronal organization and complex cognition in birds.

Keywords:
Sleep; Slow waves; Propagation; Travelling; Bird; Cortex