Spike-wave discharges (SWD) are electroencephalographic hallmarks of absence epilepsy. SWD are known to originate from thalamo-cortical neuronal network that normally produces sleep spindle oscillations. Although sleep spindles and SWD are considered as thalamo-cortical oscillations, functional relationship between them is not obvious. The present study describes temporal dynamics of SWD and sleep spindles as determined in 24h EEG recorded in WAG/Rij rat model of absence epilepsy. SWD, sleep spindles (10-15 Hz) and 5-9 Hz oscillations were automatically detected in EEG using wavelet-based algorithm. It was found that non-linear dynamics of SWD fitted well to the law of 'on-off intermittency'. Sleep spindles also demonstrated 'on-off intermittency', in contrast to 5-9 Hz oscillations, whose dynamics could not be classified as having any known type of non-linear behavior. Intermittency in sleep spindles and SWD implies that (1) temporal dynamics of these oscillations are deterministic in nature, and (2) it might be controlled by a system-level mechanism responsible for circadian modulation of neuronal network activity.
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