Sleep and vigilance states: Embracing spatiotemporal dynamics

Yuval Nir*, Luis de Lecea*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The classic view of sleep and vigilance states is a global stationary perspective driven by the interaction between neuromodulators and thalamocortical systems. However, recent data are challenging this view by demonstrating that vigilance states are highly dynamic and regionally complex. Spatially, sleep- and wake-like states often co-occur across distinct brain regions, as in unihemispheric sleep, local sleep in wakefulness, and during development. Temporally, dynamic switching prevails around state transitions, during extended wakefulness, and in fragmented sleep. This knowledge, together with methods monitoring brain activity across multiple regions simultaneously at millisecond resolution with cell-type specificity, is rapidly shifting how we consider vigilance states. A new perspective incorporating multiple spatial and temporal scales may have important implications for considering the governing neuromodulatory mechanisms, the functional roles of vigilance states, and their behavioral manifestations. A modular and dynamic view highlights novel avenues for finer spatiotemporal interventions to improve sleep function.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1998-2011
Number of pages14
Issue number13
StatePublished - 5 Jul 2023


  • REM sleep
  • electroencephalogram
  • local sleep
  • neuronal circuitry
  • wakefulness


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