Prefrontal cortex: Links between low frequency delta EEG in sleep and neuropsychological performance in healthy, older people


  • Joint authorship. This project was funded by the Wellcome Trust, UK.

Address reprint requests to: James A. Horne, Sleep Research Centre, Human Sciences, Loughborough University, Leicestershire LE11 3TU, UK. E-mail:


Low frequency (<1 Hz) delta EEG in sleep is of increasing interest as it indicates cortical reorganization, especially in the prefrontal cortex (PFC). Other research shows that delta power in sleep is positively linked to waking cerebral metabolic rate. Such findings suggest that<1 Hz activity may reflect waking performance at neuropsychological tests specific to the PFC. We investigated this unexplored area. Sleep EEGs (Fp1–F3, Fp2–F4, O1–P3, O2–P4) were recorded in 24 healthy 61–75-year-olds. We found significant associations between 0.5–1.0 Hz power from the left frontal EEG channel, in the first non-REM period, and performance at tasks more specific to the left PFC (e.g., nonverbal planning and verbal fluency). This association was absent from the posterior channels. Neither age nor response times were confounding factors. This potential sleep EEG marker for PFC neuropsychological function in healthy, older people also points to further uses of the sleep EEG in understanding the role of sleep.