Posterior Hippocampal Spindle Ripples Co-occur with Neocortical Theta Bursts and Downstates-Upstates, and Phase-Lock with Parietal Spindles during NREM Sleep in Humans

J Neurosci. 2019 Nov 6;39(45):8949-8968. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2858-18.2019. Epub 2019 Sep 17.


Human anterior and posterior hippocampus (aHC, pHC) differ in connectivity and behavioral correlates. Here we report physiological differences in humans of both sexes. During NREM sleep, the human hippocampus generates sharpwave ripples (SWRs) similar to those which in rodents mark memory replay. We show that while pHC generates SWRs, it also generates approximately as many spindle ripples (SSR: ripples phase-locked to local spindles). In contrast, SSRs are rare in aHC. Like SWRs, SSRs often co-occur with neocortical theta bursts (TBs), downstates (DSs), sleep spindles (SSs), and upstates (USs), which coordinate cortico-hippocampal interactions and facilitate consolidation in rodents. SWRs co-occur with these waves in widespread cortical areas, especially frontocentral. These waves typically occur in the sequence TB-DS-SS-US, with SWRs usually occurring before SS-US. In contrast, SSRs occur ∼350 ms later, with a strong preference for co-occurrence with posterior-parietal SSs. pHC-SSs were strongly phase-locked with parietal-SSs, and pHC-SSRs were phase-coupled with pHC-SSs and parietal-SSs. Human SWRs (and associated replay events, if any) are separated by ∼5 s on average, whereas ripples on successive SSR peaks are separated by only ∼80 ms. These distinctive physiological properties of pHC-SSR enable an alternative mechanism for hippocampal engagement with neocortex.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Rodent hippocampal neurons replay waking events during sharpwave ripples (SWRs) in NREM sleep, facilitating memory transfer to a permanent cortical store. We show that human anterior hippocampus also produces SWRs, but spindle ripples predominate in posterior. Whereas SWRs typically occur as cortex emerges from inactivity, spindle ripples typically occur at peak cortical activity. Furthermore, posterior hippocampal spindle ripples are tightly coupled to posterior parietal locations activated by conscious recollection. Finally, multiple spindle ripples can recur within a second, whereas SWRs are separated by ∼5 s. The human posterior hippocampus is considered homologous to rodent dorsal hippocampus, which is thought to be specialized for consolidation of specific memory details. We speculate that these distinct physiological characteristics of posterior hippocampal spindle ripples may support a related function in humans.

Keywords: electrophysiology; hippocampus; human; memory; neocortex; sleep.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Hippocampus / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neocortex / physiology*
  • Parietal Lobe / physiology*
  • Sleep Stages*
  • Theta Rhythm*