K-complex, a reactive EEG graphoelement of NREM sleep: an old chap in a new garment

Sleep Med Rev. 2005 Oct;9(5):391-412. doi: 10.1016/j.smrv.2005.04.003.


This review summarises data gathered on the KC phenomenon over the past 70 yr. The following issues are discussed: definitions, morphology and topography of KC, the regular participation in NREM sleep, elicitability features of evoked KC, autonomic and motor concomitants, relationship of KC with information processing during NREM sleep, relationship of KC and deltas of NREM sleep, and relationship of KC with sleep cyclicity. KC is a complex multifunctional phenomenon of the sleeping brain involved in information processing and defence against the arousal effect of sensory stimuli. To put the old chap in a new garment, the relationship of KC with synchronisation-type and desynchronisation-type micro-arousals, and the 'cyclic alternating pattern', will be discussed, with an emphasis on the sleep-protecting role of KC and synchronisation-type answers in sleep regulation executed by phasic events. Lastly, the role of KC providing gating functions in idiopathic generalized epilepsies and other, different, sleep disorders are characterised. A 'theoretical epilogue' is appended to show some system theoretical and regulational aspects.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Arousal / physiology
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology
  • Delta Rhythm
  • Electroencephalography*
  • Humans
  • Mental Processes / physiology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Periodicity
  • Sleep Stages / physiology*