Slow eye movements and subjective estimates of sleepiness predict EEG power changes during sleep deprivation

Cristina Marzano, Fabiana Fratello, Fabio Moroni, Maria Concetta Pellicciari, Giuseppe Curcio, Michele Ferrara, Fabio Ferlazzo, Luigi De Gennaro
Sleep 2007, 30 (5): 610-6

RATIONALE: The aim of the present study was to assess, intraindividually, the relationship among slow eye movements, electroencephalogram (EEG) power, and subjective measures of sleepiness during a 40-hour sleep deprivation comparing 2 experimental conditions: eyes-open and eyes-closed.

METHODS: Nineteen normal subjects participated in a sleep-deprivation protocol with recordings of the waking Cz-A1-2 EEG in 36 sessions at 1-hour intervals starting at 10:00 AM. Each session consisted of a 2-minute eyes-closed period, followed by a 4-minute eyes-open period. Electrooculogram, self-ratings (Karolinska Sleepiness Scale and Visual Analog Scale for Global Vigor), and tympanic temperature were also recorded.

RESULTS: Changes in sleepiness and alertness are paralleled by increases in slow eye movements and theta and delta EEG power. The beginning of the rise of delta, theta, and slow eye movement activity corresponded to the nadir of temperature, peaking at 7:00AM. Cross-correlational analyses showed that changes in slow eye movements were strictly phase locked to those in slow-frequency EEG bands and in subjective measures. The comparison of time intervals that were equivalent with respect to circadian phase confirms the effects of the increased sleepiness on slow eye movement activity and on the other measures. The temporal concordance of the different physiologic and subjective measures is also reflected in the individual time courses. Individual and group analyses converged in indicating that slow eye movements can be considered reliable indexes of sleepiness but only in the eyes-closed condition.

CONCLUSIONS: Results suggest that subjective and EEG changes associated with higher sleepiness are paralleled by an increase in slow eye movement activity, but this relationship exists almost exclusively with the eyes closed. Hence, its use in practical and operational contexts seems limited.

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