During much of sleep, cortical neurons undergo near-synchronous slow oscillation cycles in membrane potential, which give rise to the largest spontaneous waves observed in the normal electroencephalogram (EEG). Slow oscillations underlie characteristic features of the sleep EEG, such as slow waves and spindles. Here we show that, in sleeping subjects, slow waves and spindles can be triggered noninvasively and reliably by transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). With appropriate stimulation parameters, each TMS pulse at <1 Hz evokes an individual, high-amplitude slow wave that originates under the coil and spreads over the cortex. TMS triggering of slow waves reveals intrinsic bistability in thalamocortical networks during non-rapid eye movement sleep. Moreover, evoked slow waves lead to a deepening of sleep and to an increase in EEG slow-wave activity (0.5-4.5 Hz), which is thought to play a role in brain restoration and memory consolidation.
Sleep slow waves are the main phenomenon underlying NREM sleep. They are homeostatically regulated, they are thought to be linked to learning and plasticity processes and, at the same time, they are associated with marked changes in cortical information processing. Using transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and high-density (hd) EEG we can measure slow waves, induce and measure plastic changes in the cerebral cortex and directly assess corticocortical information transmission. In this manuscript we review the results of recent experiments in which TMS with hd-EEG is used to demonstrate (i) a causal link between cortical plastic changes and sleep slow waves and (ii) a causal link between slow waves and the decreased ability of thalamocortical circuits to integrate information and to generate conscious experience during NREM sleep. The data presented here suggest a unifying mechanism linking slow waves, plasticity and cortical information integration; moreover, they suggest that TMS can be used as a nonpharmacological means to controllably induce slow waves in the human cerebral cortex.
This study assessed the efficacy of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) in the treatment of patients with chronic primary insomnia. Hundred and twenty patients with chronic primary insomnia were randomly assigned to three study groups (n = 40 per group): rTMS, medication, or psychotherapy treatment (both latter as controls). The treatments proceeded for 2 weeks, after which treatment efficacies were assessed in each study group based on changes in polysomnography parameters, Pittsburgh sleep quality index, and indices of HPA and HPT axes (serum cortisol, adrenocorticotropic hormone, highly sensitive thyrotropin, free T3, and free T4). Further, the relapse and recurrence rates within 3 months after respective treatments were also measured. rTMS treatment significantly better (p < 0.05) improved stage III sleep and REM sleep cycle compared with both control groups. Further, rTMS treatment group was more advantageous in improving the indices of HPA and HPT axes (p < 0.05 vs. both control groups). In addition, the relapse and recurrence rates were also the lowest in rTMS treatment group. In conclusion, rTMS treatment is more advantageous than both medication and psychotherapy treatments in improving the sleep architecture. Further, rTMS significantly decreases the body awakening level and provides a better long-term treatment effect.
Sleep disorders are common in Parkinson’s disease (PD) and have profound negative influences on quality of life. Sleep structure in healthy participants can be changed by repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), but this has never been studied systematically in PD. Therefore, we characterized sleep in PD patients and examined effects of rTMS using a combination of actigraphy and a pressure sensitive pad. Thirteen PD patients received 5 Hz rTMS over the motor or parietal cortex. Actigraphic sleep estimates were obtained before, during and after rTMS, as well as compared with 8 healthy, age-matched controls. Motor symptoms and mood were evaluated before and after rTMS. Mixed-model regression analyses indicated that PD patients slept shorter (350 +/- 17 vs. 419 +/- 24 min., P = 0.02), more fragmented (fragmentation index 41 +/- 4 vs. 22 +/- 2, P = 0.0004) and had a lower sleep efficiency (77 +/- 2 vs. 86 +/- 2%, P = 0.002) and longer nocturnal awakenings (3.4 +/- 0.2 vs. 2.3 +/- 0.2 min., P = 0.003) than healthy controls. rTMS over the parietal, but not over the motor cortex improved sleep fragmentation (P = 0.0002) and sleep efficiency (P = 0.0002) and reduced the average duration of nocturnal awakenings (P = 0.02). No change of motor symptoms or mood was observed. Disturbed sleep in PD patients may partly be reversed by parietal rTMS, without affecting motor symptoms or mood.
There is compelling evidence that sleep contributes to the long-term consolidation of new memories. This function of sleep has been linked to slow (<1 Hz) potential oscillations, which predominantly arise from the prefrontal neocortex and characterize slow wave sleep. However, oscillations in brain potentials are commonly considered to be mere epiphenomena that reflect synchronized activity arising from neuronal networks, which links the membrane and synaptic processes of these neurons in time. Whether brain potentials and their extracellular equivalent have any physiological meaning per se is unclear, but can easily be investigated by inducing the extracellular oscillating potential fields of interest. Here we show that inducing slow oscillation-like potential fields by transcranial application of oscillating potentials (0.75 Hz) during early nocturnal non-rapid-eye-movement sleep, that is, a period of emerging slow wave sleep, enhances the retention of hippocampus-dependent declarative memories in healthy humans. The slowly oscillating potential stimulation induced an immediate increase in slow wave sleep, endogenous cortical slow oscillations and slow spindle activity in the frontal cortex. Brain stimulation with oscillations at 5 Hz–another frequency band that normally predominates during rapid-eye-movement sleep–decreased slow oscillations and left declarative memory unchanged. Our findings indicate that endogenous slow potential oscillations have a causal role in the sleep-associated consolidation of memory, and that this role is enhanced by field effects in cortical extracellular space.
In humans, weak transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) modulates excitability in the motor, visual, and prefrontal cortex. Periods rich in slow-wave sleep (SWS) not only facilitate the consolidation of declarative memories, but in humans, SWS is also accompanied by a pronounced endogenous transcortical DC potential shift of negative polarity over frontocortical areas. To experimentally induce widespread extracellular negative DC potentials, we applied anodal tDCS (0.26 mA) [correction] repeatedly (over 30 min) bilaterally at frontocortical electrode sites during a retention period rich in SWS. Retention of declarative memories (word pairs) and also nondeclarative memories (mirror tracing skills) learned previously was tested after this period and compared with retention performance after placebo stimulation as well as after retention intervals of wakefulness. Compared with placebo stimulation, anodal tDCS during SWS-rich sleep distinctly increased the retention of word pairs (p < 0.005). When applied during the wake retention interval, tDCS did not affect declarative memory. Procedural memory was also not affected by tDCS. Mood was improved both after tDCS during sleep and during wake intervals. tDCS increased sleep depth toward the end of the stimulation period, whereas the average power in the faster frequency bands (,alpha, and beta) was reduced. Acutely, anodal tDCS increased slow oscillatory activity <3 Hz. We conclude that effects of tDCS involve enhanced generation of slow oscillatory EEG activity considered to facilitate processes of neuronal plasticity. Shifts in extracellular ionic concentration in frontocortical tissue (expressed as negative DC potentials during SWS) may facilitate sleep-dependent consolidation of declarative memories.
The treatment of chronic psychophysiological insomnia presents a challenge that has not been met using currently available pharmacotherapy. Low energy emission therapy (LEET) has been developed as a potential alternative therapy for this disorder. LEET consists of amplitude-modulated electromagnetic fields delivered intrabuccally by means of an electrically conducting mouthpiece in direct contact with the oral mucosa. The effect of LEET on chronic psychophysiological insomnia was assessed with polysomnography (PSG) and sleep rating forms on a total of 106 patients at two different centers. Active or inactive LEET was administered for 20 minutes in late afternoon three times a week for a total of 12 treatments. Primary efficacy endpoints evaluating the results were changes from baseline in PSG-assessed total sleep time (TST) and sleep latency (SL). Secondary endpoints were changes in sleep efficiency (SE), sleep stages, and reports by the subjects of SL and TST. There was a significant increase in TST as assessed by PSG between baseline and post-treatment values for the active treatment group (76.0 +/- 11.1 minutes, p = 0.0001). The increase for the inactive treatment group was not statistically significant. The TST improvement was significantly greater for the active group when compared to the inactive group (adjusted for baseline TST; p = 0.020. R1 = 0.20). There was a significant decrease in SL as assessed by PSG between baseline and post-treatment values for the active treatment group (-21.6 +/- 5.9 minutes, p = 0.0006), whereas the decrease noted for the inactive treatment group was not statistically significant. The difference in SL decrease between the two treatment groups was marginally significant (adjusted for baseline SL and center, p = 0.068, R2 = 0.60). The number of sleep cycles per night increased by 30% after active treatment (p = 0.0001) but was unchanged following inactive treatment. Subjects did not experience rebound insomnia, and there were no significant side effects. The data presented in this report indicate that LEET administered for 20 minutes three times a week increased TST and reduced SL in chronic psychophysiological insomnia. LEET is safe and well tolerated and it effectively improved the sleep of chronic insomniacs given 12 treatments over a 4-week period by increasing the number of sleep cycles without altering the percentage of the various sleep stages during the night. The therapeutic action of LEET differs from that of currently available drug therapies in that the sleep pattern noted in insomniacs following LEET treatment more closely resembles nocturnal physiological sleep. This novel treatment may offer an attractive alternative therapy for chronic insomnia.