The cholinergic system, EEG and sleep

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110 Citations (Scopus)


Acetylcholine is a potent excitatory neurotransmitter, crucial for cognition and the control of alertness and arousal. Vigilance-specific recordings of the electroencephalogram (EEG) potently reflect thalamocortical and brainstem–cortical cholinergic activity that drives theta rhythms and task-specific cortical (de-synchronisation. Additionally, cholinergic projections from the basal forebrain act as a relay centre for the brainstem–cortical arousal system, but also directly modulate cortical activity, and thus promote wakefulness or rapid-eye movement (REM) sleep. Disease states such as sleep disorders, dementia and
certain types of epilepsy are a further reflection of the potent cholinergic impact on CNS physiology and function, and highlight the relevance and inter-dependence of sleep and EEG. With novel technologies and computational tools now becoming available, advanced mechanistic insights may be gained and new
avenues explored for diagnostics and therapeutics.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)499-504
Number of pages6
JournalBehavioural Brain Research
Issue number2
Early online date14 Jan 2011
Publication statusPublished - 10 Aug 2011


  • electroencephalogram
  • vigilance
  • wakefulness
  • thalamo-cortical
  • basal forebrain
  • arousal
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • epilepsy


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