Although astrocytes are increasingly recognized as important modulators of neuronal excitability and information transfer at the synapse, whether these cells regulate neuronal network activity has only recently started to be investigated. In this article, we highlight the role of astrocytes in the modulation of circuit function with particular focus on sleep-related rhythmogenesis. We discuss recent data showing that these glial cells regulate slow oscillations, a specific thalamocortical activity that characterizes non-REM sleep, and sleep-associated behaviors. Based on these findings, we predict that our understanding of the genesis and tuning of thalamocortical rhythms will necessarily go through an integrated view of brain circuits in which non-neuronal cells can play important neuromodulatory roles.
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