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J Affect Disord. 2013 Mar 20;146(1):120-5. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2012.06.016. Epub 2012 Sep 10.

Topographic and sex-related differences in sleep spindles in major depressive disorder: a high-density EEG investigation.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison, WI, USA.



Sleep spindles are believed to mediate several sleep-related functions including maintaining disconnection from the external environment during sleep, cortical development, and sleep-dependent memory consolidation. Prior studies that have examined sleep spindles in major depressive disorder (MDD) have not demonstrated consistent differences relative to control subjects, which may be due to sex-related variation and limited spatial resolution of spindle detection. Thus, this study sought to characterize sleep spindles in MDD using high-density electroencephalography (hdEEG) to examine the topography of sleep spindles across the cortex in MDD, as well as sex-related variation in spindle topography in the disorder.


All-night hdEEG recordings were collected in 30 unipolar MDD participants (19 women) and 30 age and sex-matched controls. Topography of sleep spindle density, amplitude, duration, and integrated spindle activity (ISA) were assessed to determine group differences. Spindle parameters were compared between MDD and controls, including analysis stratified by sex.


As a group, MDD subjects demonstrated significant increases in frontal and parietal spindle density and ISA compared to controls. When stratified by sex, MDD women demonstrated increases in frontal and parietal spindle density, amplitude, duration, and ISA; whereas MDD men demonstrated either no differences or decreases in spindle parameters.


Given the number of male subjects, this study may be underpowered to detect differences in spindle parameters in male MDD participants.


This study demonstrates topographic and sex-related differences in sleep spindles in MDD. Further research is warranted to investigate the role of sleep spindles and sex in the pathophysiology of MDD.

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