Longitudinal investigations of sleep EEG across childhood and adolescence
Irwin Feinberg, M.D.
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Ian G. Campbell, Ph.D.
Human sleep electroencephalogram (EEG) changes massively across childhood-adolescence. These changes led us to propose, almost 40 years ago, that the brain undergoes a pervasive reorganization during adolescence driven by late synaptic elimination. Our subsidiary hypothesis was that these late brain changes might sometimes be faulty or abnormal and give rise to mental illness. This hypothesis provided the first biologically-based explanation for the late onset of schizophrenia and other mental disorders.
One goal of our research program over the past 20 years was to document the brain wave changes in normal sleep longitudinally and to determine the relationship of these changes to sex and pubertal maturation. This work has been largely completed although we are still analyzing our large data set of all-night sleep EEG recordings. In addition to its importance as a marker of late brain development, changes in sleep EEG across adolescence are a focus of major public health concern. This is because the changing amounts of sleep required for optimal daytime function has not been systematically measured and there is ongoing controversy on time-in-bed recommendations.
We are now using a dose-sleep response paradigm to determine the effects of varied sleep durations on waking cognition, memory and vigilance, and how these requirements change across adolescence. These studies have been in abeyance because of the pandemic but we hope to resume data collection in the near future.
One fundamental question our data are beginning to address is whether the biological need for sleep declines across adolescence. We have completed the first phase of a three-year longitudinal study of this question in participants between ages 10 and 16 years, and are now working on the second phase with participants between ages 15 and 22 years. Subjects are recorded in their own homes with ambulatory EEG recorders set up each night by trained undergraduate assistants.
National Heart Lung Blood Institute
Recent published findings
Effects of sleep restriction on the sleep electroencephalogram of adolescents
Oxford Academic, January 28, 2021
Study links neighborhood conditions to adolescent sleep loss
National Institutes of Health, January 28, 2021