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Neuroscience. 2011 Feb 23;175:184-97. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2010.11.036. Epub 2010 Nov 27.

Progressive changes in cortical state before and after spontaneous arousals from sleep in elderly and middle-aged women.

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1
Center for Biomedical Engineering, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, USA. ebruce@uky.edu

Abstract

Arousals are often considered to be events which have an abrupt onset and offset, indicating abrupt changes in the state of the cortex. We hypothesized that cortical state, as reflected in electroencephalograph (EEG) signals, exhibits progressive systematic changes before and after a spontaneous, isolated arousal and that the time courses of the spectral components of the EEG before and after an arousal would differ between healthy middle-aged and elderly subjects. We analyzed the power spectrum and Sample Entropy of the C3A2 EEG before and after isolated arousals from 20 middle-aged (47.2±2.0 years) and 20 elderly (78.4±3.8 years) women using polysomnograms from the Sleep Heart Health Study database. In middle-aged women, all EEG spectral band powers <16 Hz exhibited a significant increase relative to baseline at some time in the 21 s before an arousal, but only low- (0.2-2.0 Hz) and high-frequency (2.0-4.0 Hz) delta increased in elderly and only during the last 7 s pre-arousal. Post-arousal, all frequency bands below 12 Hz transiently fell below pre-arousal baseline in both age groups. Consistent with these findings, Sample Entropy decreased steadily before an arousal, increased markedly during the arousal, and remained above pre-arousal baseline levels for ∼30 s after the arousal. In middle-aged, but not in elderly, women the presence of early pre-arousal low delta power was associated with shorter arousals. We propose that this attenuation of the effect of the arousing stimulus may be related to the slow (<1 Hz) cortical state oscillation, and that prolonged alterations of cortical state due to arousals may contribute to the poor correlation between indices of arousals and indices of sleepiness or impaired cognitive function.

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