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Brain Topogr. 2002 Fall;15(1):43-9.

Scalp topography of the spontaneous K-complex and of delta-waves in human sleep.

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  • 1Department of Neurology, University of Vienna, Austria.



Together with spindles, K-complexes are well known hallmarks of stage 2 sleep (S2). However, little is known about their topographical distribution in comparison to delta-waves and to K-complexes superimposed by spindles.


In this study, the topographical distribution of spontaneous K-complexes and delta-waves in S2 and delta-waves in stage 4 sleep (S4) in 10 healthy young adults (aged 20 to 35 years, 7 female) was investigated. K-complexes with and without spindles in S2, delta-waves with and without spindles in S2, and delta-waves in S4 distributed all over the night were visually selected. EEG power maps and statistical parametric maps were calculated.


Absolute delta power of S2 K-complexes appeared to be significantly higher than of S2 delta-waves and delta power of S4 delta-waves was higher than of S2 delta-waves. In K-complexes and delta-waves, power was found to be highest over medio-frontal regions in the delta frequency band (0.5-4.0 Hz) with a second maximum occipitally in delta-waves, no matter whether superimposed by a spindle or not.


K-complexes and delta-waves in S2 differ in topographical distribution. Even though in S2 delta-waves have less power, they have a similar topographical distribution in S2 and S4, supporting the hypothesis that delta-waves in S2 further develop towards delta-waves in slow wave sleep. The delta frequency components of K-complexes and delta-waves are unaffected by spindles.

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