Spatiotemporal dynamics of sleep spindle sources across NREM sleep cycles

Valentina Alfonsi, Aurora D'Atri, Maurizio Gorgoni, Serena Scarpelli, Anastasia Mangiaruga, Michele Ferrara, Luigi De Gennaro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The existence of two different types of sleep spindles (slow and fast) is well-established, according to their topographical distribution at scalp- and cortical-level. Our aim was to provide a systematic investigation focused on the temporal evolution of sleep spindle sources during non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep. Spindle activity was recorded and automatically detected in 20 healthy subjects. Low resolution brain electromagnetic tomography (LORETA) was applied for the EEG source localization. Aiming to evaluate the time course of the detected slow and fast spindle sources, we considered the first four NREM sleep cycles and divided each cycle into five intervals of equal duration. We confirmed the preferential localization in the frontal (Brodmann area 10) and parietal (Brodmann area 7) cortical regions, respectively for slow (11.0-12.5) and fast (13.0-14.5) spindles. Across subsequent NREM sleep episodes, the maximal source activation remained systematically located in Brodmann area 10 and Brodmann area 7, showing the topographical stability of the detected generators. However, a different time course was observed as a function of the type of spindles: A linear decrease across subsequent cycles was found for slow spindle but not for fast spindle source. The intra-cycle variations followed a "U" shaped curve for both spindle source, with a trough around third and fourth interval (middle part) and the highest values at the beginning and the end of the considered temporal window. We confirmed the involvement of the frontal and parietal brain regions in spindle generation, showing for the first time their changes within and between consecutive NREM sleep episodes. Our results point to a correspondence between the scalp-recorded electrical activity and the underlying source topography, supporting the notion that spindles are not uniform phenomena: Complex region- and time-specific patterns are involved in their generation and manifestation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number727
JournalFrontiers in Neuroscience
Issue numberJUL
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2019


  • EEG source localization
  • Sleep spindles
  • Slow/fast spindles
  • Time course

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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