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Sleep. 2016 May 1;39(5):1015-27. doi: 10.5665/sleep.5744.

Wake High-Density Electroencephalographic Spatiospectral Signatures of Insomnia.

Author information

Department of Sleep and Cognition, Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience (NIN), an institute of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
Faculty of Biology, and Bernstein Center Freiburg, University of Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany.
Centre for Chronobiology, Psychiatric Hospital of the University of Basel (UPK), Basel, Switzerland.
Department of Clinical and Health Psychology, Department of Experimental Psychology, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands.
Department of Anatomy and Neurosciences, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
Departments of Integrative Neurophysiology and Psychiatry, Center for Neurogenomics and Cognitive Research (CNCR), Neuroscience Campus Amsterdam, VU University and Medical Center, Amsterdam, the Netherlands.



Although daytime complaints are a defining characteristic of insomnia, most EEG studies evaluated sleep only. We used high-density electroencephalography to investigate wake resting state oscillations characteristic of insomnia disorder (ID) at a fine-grained spatiospectral resolution.


A case-control assessment during eyes open (EO) and eyes closed (EC) was performed in a laboratory for human physiology. Participants (n = 94, 74 female, 21-70 y) were recruited through 51 with ID, according to DSM-5 and 43 matched controls. Exclusion criteria were any somatic, neurological or psychiatric condition. Group differences in the spectral power topographies across multiple frequencies (1.5 to 40 Hz) were evaluated using permutation-based inference with Threshold-Free Cluster-Enhancement, to correct for multiple comparisons.


As compared to controls, participants with ID showed less power in a narrow upper alpha band (11-12.7 Hz, peak: 11.7 Hz) over bilateral frontal and left temporal regions during EO, and more power in a broad beta frequency range (16.3-40 Hz, peak: 19 Hz) globally during EC. Source estimates suggested global rather than cortically localized group differences.


The widespread high power in a broad beta band reported previously during sleep in insomnia is present as well during eyes closed wakefulness, suggestive of a round-the-clock hyperarousal. Low power in the upper alpha band during eyes open is consistent with low cortical inhibition and attentional filtering. The fine-grained HD-EEG findings suggest that, while more feasible than PSG, wake EEG of short duration with a few well-chosen electrodes and frequency bands, can provide valuable features of insomnia.


alpha oscillation; beta oscillation; high density EEG; hyperarousal; insomnia; power spectrum; resting-state; wakefulness

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