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Open Access Research article

Sex-related differences in sleep slow wave activity in major depressive disorder: a high-density EEG investigation

David T Plante*, Eric C Landsness, Michael J Peterson, Michael R Goldstein, Brady A Riedner, Timothy Wanger, Jeffrey J Guokas, Giulio Tononi and Ruth M Benca

Author affiliations

Department of Psychiatry, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison, WI, USA

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Citation and License

BMC Psychiatry 2012, 12:146  doi:10.1186/1471-244X-12-146

Published: 18 September 2012

Abstract

Background

Sleep disturbance plays an important role in major depressive disorder (MDD). Prior investigations have demonstrated that slow wave activity (SWA) during sleep is altered in MDD; however, results have not been consistent across studies, which may be due in part to sex-related differences in SWA and/or limited spatial resolution of spectral analyses. This study sought to characterize SWA in MDD utilizing high-density electroencephalography (hdEEG) to examine the topography of SWA across the cortex in MDD, as well as sex-related variation in SWA topography in the disorder.

Methods

All-night recordings with 256 channel hdEEG were collected in 30 unipolar MDD subjects (19 women) and 30 age and sex-matched control subjects. Spectral analyses of SWA were performed to determine group differences. SWA was compared between MDD and controls, including analyses stratified by sex, using statistical non-parametric mapping to correct for multiple comparisons of topographic data.

Results

As a group, MDD subjects demonstrated significant increases in all-night SWA primarily in bilateral prefrontal channels. When stratified by sex, MDD women demonstrated global increases in SWA relative to age-matched controls that were most consistent in bilateral prefrontal regions; however, MDD men showed no significant differences relative to age-matched controls. Further analyses demonstrated increased SWA in MDD women was most prominent in the first portion of the night.

Conclusions

Women, but not men with MDD demonstrate significant increases in SWA in multiple cortical areas relative to control subjects. Further research is warranted to investigate the role of SWA in MDD, and to clarify how increased SWA in women with MDD is related to the pathophysiology of the disorder.