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Slow waves (1-4.5 Hz) are the most characteristic oscillations of deep non-rapid eye movement sleep. The EEG power in this frequency range (slow-wave activity, SWA) parallels changes in cortical connectivity (i.e., synaptic density) during development. In patients with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), prefrontal cortical development was shown to be delayed and global gray matter volumes to be smaller compared to healthy controls. Using data of all-night recordings assessed with high-density sleep EEG of 50 children and adolescents with ADHD (mean age: 12.2 years, range: 8-16 years, 13 female) and 86 age- and sex-matched healthy controls (mean age: 12.2 years, range: 8-16 years, 23 female), we investigated if ADHD patients differ in the level of SWA. Furthermore, we examined the effect of stimulant medication. ADHD patients showed a reduction in SWA across the whole brain (-20.5%) compared to healthy controls. A subgroup analysis revealed that this decrease was not significant in patients who were taking stimulant medication on a regular basis at the time of their participation in the study. Assuming that SWA directly reflects synaptic density, the present findings are in line with previous data of neuroimaging studies showing smaller gray matter volumes in ADHD patients and its normalization with stimulant medication.


Melanie Furrer, Valeria Jaramillo, Carina Volk, Maya Ringli, Robert Aellen, Flavia M Wehrle, Fiona Pugin, Salome Kurth, Daniel Brandeis, Markus Schmid, Oskar G Jenni, Reto Huber. Sleep EEG slow-wave activity in medicated and unmedicated children and adolescents with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Translational psychiatry. 2019 Nov 28;9(1):324

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PMID: 31780639

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