Alterations in sleep electroencephalography synchrony in combat-exposed veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder

Sleep. 2020 Jul 13;43(7):zsaa006. doi: 10.1093/sleep/zsaa006.


Study objectives: We assessed whether the synchrony between brain regions, analyzed using electroencephalography (EEG) signals recorded during sleep, is altered in subjects with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and whether the results are reproducible across consecutive nights and subpopulations of the study.

Methods: A total of 78 combat-exposed veteran men with (n = 31) and without (n = 47) PTSD completed two consecutive laboratory nights of high-density EEG recordings. We computed a measure of synchrony for each EEG channel-pair across three sleep stages (rapid eye movement [REM] and non-REM stages 2 and 3) and six frequency bands. We examined the median synchrony in 9 region-of-interest (ROI) pairs consisting of 6 bilateral brain regions (left and right frontal, central, and parietal regions) for 10 frequency-band and sleep-stage combinations. To assess reproducibility, we used the first 47 consecutive subjects (18 with PTSD) for initial discovery and the remaining 31 subjects (13 with PTSD) for replication.

Results: In the discovery analysis, five alpha-band synchrony pairs during non-REM sleep were consistently larger in PTSD subjects compared with controls (effect sizes ranging from 0.52 to 1.44) across consecutive nights: two between the left-frontal and left-parietal ROIs, one between the left-central and left-parietal ROIs, and two across central and parietal bilateral ROIs. These trends were preserved in the replication set.

Conclusion: PTSD subjects showed increased alpha-band synchrony during non-REM sleep in the left frontoparietal, left centro-parietal, and inter-parietal brain regions. Importantly, these trends were reproducible across consecutive nights and subpopulations. Thus, these alterations in alpha synchrony may be discriminatory of PTSD.

Keywords: phase synchronization; post-traumatic stress disorder; reproducibility of results; sleep electroencephalography.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Electroencephalography
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Polysomnography
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sleep
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic*
  • Veterans*