Rhythmic hippocampal slow oscillation characterizes REM sleep in humans

Hippocampus. 2001;11(6):747-53. doi: 10.1002/hipo.1090.


Hippocampal rhythmic slow activity (RSA) is a well-known electrophysiological feature of exploratory behavior, spatial cognition, and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep in several mammalian species. Recently, RSA in humans during spatial navigation was reported, but systematic data regarding human REM sleep are lacking. Using mesio-temporal corticography with foramen ovale electrodes in epileptic patients, we report the presence of a 1.5-3-Hz synchronous rhythmic hippocampal oscillation seemingly specific to REM sleep. This oscillation is continuous during whole REM periods, is clearly observable by visual inspection, and appears in tonic and phasic REM sleep episodes equally. Quantitative analysis proved that this 1.5-3-Hz frequency band significantly differentiates REM sleep from waking and slow-wake sleep (SWS). No other frequency band proved to be significant or showed this high rhythmicity. Even in temporo-lateral surface recordings, although visually much less striking, the relative power of the 1.5-3-Hz frequency band differentiates REM sleep from other states with statistical significance. This could mean that the 1.5-3-Hz hippocampal RSA spreads over other cortical areas in humans as in other mammals. We suggest that this oscillation is the counterpart of the hippocampal theta of mammalian REM sleep, and that the 1.5-3-Hz delta EEG activity is a basic neurophysiological feature of human REM sleep.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Delta Rhythm
  • Electroencephalography
  • Epilepsy, Temporal Lobe / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Hippocampus / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Monitoring, Physiologic
  • Oscillometry
  • Periodicity*
  • Sleep Stages / physiology
  • Sleep, REM / physiology*
  • Sphenoid Bone
  • Television
  • Theta Rhythm
  • Wakefulness / physiology