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After studying this chapter, you should be able to:


  • Describe the primary types of rhythms that make up the electroencephalogram (EEG).
  • List the main clinical uses of the EEG.
  • Summarize the behavioral and EEG characteristics of each of the stages of nonrapid eye movement (NREM) and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and the mechanisms responsible for their production.
  • Describe the pattern of normal nighttime sleep in adults and the variations in this pattern from birth to old age.
  • Describe the interplay between brain stem neurons that contain norepinephrine, serotonin, and acetylcholine as well as GABA and histamine in mediating transitions between sleep and wakefulness.
  • Discuss the circadian rhythm and the role of the suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN) in its regulation.
  • Describe the diurnal regulation of synthesis of melatonin from serotonin in the pineal gland and its secretion into the bloodstream.


Most of the various sensory pathways described in Chapters 8, 9, 10, 11 relay impulses from sense organs via three- and four-neuron chains to particular sites in the cerebral cortex. The impulses are responsible for perception and localization of individual sensations. However, they must be processed in the awake brain to be perceived. There is a spectrum of behavioral states ranging from deep sleep through light sleep, REM sleep, and the two awake states: relaxed awareness and awareness with concentrated attention. Discrete patterns of brain electrical activity correlate with each of these states. Feedback oscillations within the cerebral cortex and between the thalamus and the cortex serve as producers of this activity and possible determinants of the behavioral state. Arousal can be produced by sensory stimulation and by impulses ascending in the reticular core of the midbrain. Many of these activities have rhythmic fluctuations that are approximately 24 h in length; that is, they are circadian.


Thalamic Nuclei


The thalamus is a large collection of neuronal groups within the diencephalon; it participates in sensory, motor, and limbic functions. Virtually all information that reaches the cortex is processed by the thalamus, leading to its being called the “gateway to the cerebral cortex.”


The thalamus can be divided into nuclei that project diffusely to wide regions of the neocortex and nuclei that project to specific discrete portions of the neocortex and limbic system. The nuclei that project to wide regions of the neocortex are the midline and intralaminar nuclei. The nuclei that project to specific areas include the specific sensory relay nuclei and the nuclei concerned with efferent control mechanisms. The specific sensory relay nuclei include the medial and lateral geniculate bodies, which relay auditory and visual impulses to the auditory and visual cortices; and the ventral posterior lateral (VPL) and ventral posteromedial nuclei, which relay somatosensory information to the postcentral gyrus. The ventral anterior and ventral lateral nuclei are concerned with motor function. They receive input from the basal ganglia and the cerebellum and project to the motor cortex. The ...

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