Sleep Microstructure and EEG Epileptiform Activity in Patients with Juvenile Myoclonic Epilepsy


Address correspondence and reprint requests to Dr. G. L. Gigli at Clinica Neurologica, II Università di Roma “Tor Vergata,” Ospedale S. Eugenio, Piazzale dell'Umanesimo, 10, 00144 Rome, Italy.


Summary: Clinical and EEG manifestations of juvenile myoclonic epilepsy (JME) occur in a strict relationship to the sleep-wake cycle, particularly to transition phases (awakening, falling asleep, afternoon relaxation after work). JME manifestations are deactivated during sleep. Because arousal fluctuations during NREM sleep may be controlled by the same neurophysiologic mechanisms regulating awakening, we studied the relationship between the cyclic alternating pattern (CAP) and JME manifestations. All-night polysomnographic recordings of 10 JME patients were analyzed for variations of epileptiform EEG abnormalities in relation to sleep stages and to different microstructural variables (NCAP, CAP, phases A and B). CAP rates (ratio between total CAP duration and total NREM sleep duration) were also calculated. Average CAP rate was 46.70%, significantly higher than that (23%) of an age-matched control group. Macrostructural analysis showed only a trend toward a slight predominance of EEG epileptiform activity during slow wave sleep but no significant correlation between spiking rates and sleep stages. Microstructural analysis confirmed the CAP modulation of EEG epileptiform activity, with maximum appearance of epileptiform abnormalities during phase A CAP (normalized spiking rate = 4.00 ± 0.98) and strong inhibition during phase B (0.06 ± 00.6). Intermediate values were noted during NCAP (0.54 ± 0.27). No correlation was noted between spiking rates during NREM sleep and CAP rates, possibly indicating that in JME patients the increased CAP rate may be partially independent of epileptiform EEG activity. Our data suggest that in JME patients CAP may be a neurophysiologic oscillator organizing expression of the epileptiform discharges independent of the tendency of the individual patient to produce epileptiform EEG discharges.