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Clin Neurophysiol. 2009 Jul;120(7):1282-90. doi: 10.1016/j.clinph.2009.04.021. Epub 2009 Jun 7.

Periodic limb movements both in non-REM and REM sleep: relationships between cerebral and autonomic activities.

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  • 1Center for Sleep Medicine, DISMR, University of Genoa, Italy.



To investigate the temporal relationship between cerebral and autonomic activities before and during periodic limb movements in NREM and REM sleep (PLMS).


Patterns of EEG, cardiac and muscle activities associated with PLMS were drawn from polysomnographic recordings of 14 outpatients selected for the presence of PLMS both in NREM and REM sleep. PLMS were scored during all sleep stages from tibial EMG. Data from a bipolar EEG channel were analyzed by wavelet transform. Heart rate (HR) was evaluated from the electrocardiogram. EEG, HR and EMG activations were detected as transient increase of signal parameters and examined by analysis of variance and correlation analysis independently in NREM and REM sleep. Homologous parameters in REM and NREM sleep were compared by paired t-test.


The autonomic component, expressed by HR increase, took place before the motor phenomenon both in REM and NREM sleep, but it was significantly earlier during NREM. In NREM sleep, PLM onset was heralded by a significant activation of delta-EEG, followed by a progressive increase of all the other bands. No significant activations of delta EEG were found in REM sleep. HR and EEG activations positively correlated with high frequency EEG activations and negatively (in NREM) with slow frequency ones.


Our findings suggested a heralding role for delta band only in NREM sleep and for HR during both NREM and REM sleep. Differences in EEG and HR activation between REM and NREM sleep and correlative data suggested a different modulation of the global arousal response.


In this study, time-frequency analysis and advanced statistical methods enabled an accurate comparison between brain and autonomic changes associated to PLM in NREM and REM sleep providing indications about interaction between autonomic and slow and fast EEG components of arousal response.

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