Increased neuronal firing in resting and sleep in areas of the macaque medial prefrontal cortex

Gabbott, Paul L. and Rolls, Edmund T. (2013). Increased neuronal firing in resting and sleep in areas of the macaque medial prefrontal cortex. European Journal of Neuroscience, 37(11) pp. 1737–1746.



The medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) of humans and macaques is an integral part of the default mode network and is a brain region that shows increased activation in the resting state. A previous paper from our laboratory reported significantly increased firing rates of neurons in the macaque subgenual cingulate cortex, Brodmann area (BA) 25, during disengagement from a task and also during slow wave sleep [E.T. Rolls et al. (2003) J. Neurophysiology, 90, 134–142]. Here we report the finding that there are neurons in other areas of mPFC that also increase their firing rates during disengagement from a task, drowsiness and eye-closure. During the neurophysiological recording of single mPFC cells (n = 249) in BAs 9, 10, 13 m, 14c, 24b and especially pregenual area 32, populations of neurons were identified whose firing rates altered significantly with eye-closure compared with eye-opening. Three types of neuron were identified: Type 1 cells (28.1% of the total population) significantly increased (mean +/- 329%; P < 0.01) their average firing rate with eye-closure, from 3.1 spikes/s when awake to 10.2 spikes/s when asleep; Type 2 cells (6.0%) significantly decreased (mean +/- 68%; P < 0.05) their firing rate on eye-closure; and Type 3 cells (65.9%) were unaffected. Thus, in many areas of mPFC, implicated in the anterior default mode network, there is a substantial population of neurons that significantly increase their firing rates during periods of eye-closure. Such neurons may be part of an interconnected network of distributed brain regions that are more active during periods of relaxed wakefulness than during attention-demanding tasks.

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