The frequency-dependent effect of electrical fields on the mobility of intracellular vesicles in astrocytes

Yihua Wang, Thomas P. Burghardt, Gregory A. Worrell, Hai Long Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Slow-wave sleep, defined by low frequency (<4 Hz) electrical brain activity, is a basic brain function affecting metabolite clearance and memory consolidation. The origin of low-frequency activity is related to cortical up and down states, but the underlying cellular mechanism of how low-frequency activities affect metabolite clearance and memory consolidation has remained elusive. We applied electrical stimulation with voltages comparable to in vivo sleep recordings over a range of frequencies to cultured glial astrocytes while monitored the trafficking of GFP-tagged intracellular vesicles using total internal reflection fluorescence microscopy (TIRFM). We found that during low frequency (2 Hz) electrical stimulation the mobility of intracellular vesicle increased more than 20%, but remained unchanged under intermediate (20 Hz) or higher (200 Hz) frequency stimulation. We demonstrated a frequency-dependent effect of electrical stimulation on the mobility of astrocytic intracellular vesicles. We suggest a novel mechanism of brain modulation that electrical signals in the lower range frequencies embedded in brainwaves modulate the functionality of astrocytes for brain homeostasis and memory consolidation. The finding suggests a physiological mechanism whereby endogenous low-frequency brain oscillations enhance astrocytic function that may underlie some of the benefits of slow-wave sleep and highlights possible medical device approach for treating neurological diseases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)429-435
Number of pages7
JournalBiochemical and Biophysical Research Communications
StatePublished - Jan 1 2021


  • Astrocytes
  • Electrical stimulation
  • Intracellular vesicles
  • Slow-wave sleep

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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