The N550 component of the evoked K-complex: A modality non-specific response?


Dr Ian M Colrain, Department of Psychology, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria 3052, Australia. Tel: 613 93446350; Fax: 613 93476618; E-mail: colrain@psych.


A large amplitude late negative deflection peaking between 500 and 650 ms is observable in the averaged K-complex wave-form. This peak is thus often labelled the N550. ‘N550’ appears during stage 2 and is maintained into slow wave sleep but is not apparent during REM. Most studies have employed auditory stimuli to elicit the K-complex. Two experiments were run to examine the effects of stimulus modality on the topographical distribution of the N550. In the first experiment, the K-complexes were elicited in an auditory oddball procedure. In the second experiment, K-complexes were elicited by respiratory occlusions. Twenty-nine channel recordings were used to increase spatial resolution. N550 was substantially larger in the average of trials containing K-complexes than in trials in which a K-complex could not be identified. N550 varied inversely in amplitude with the probability of accordance of the stimulus. The topographic distribution of the N550 was consistent between experiments. It was bilaterally symmetrical and was maximal over fronto-central regions of the scalp. The results indicate that the N550 reflects the activity of a modality non-specific, sleep dependent generator that responds to both interoceptive and external stimulation.