After acquired brain injury (ABI), patients show various neurological impairments and outcome is difficult to predict. Identifying biomarkers of recovery could provide prognostic information about a patient's neural potential for recovery and improve our understanding of neural reorganization. In healthy subjects, sleep slow wave activity (SWA, EEG spectral power 1-4.5 Hz) has been linked to neuroplastic processes such as learning and brain maturation. Therefore, we suggest that SWA might be a suitable measure to investigate neural reorganization underlying memory recovery.
In the present study, we used SWA to investigate neural correlates of recovery of function in ten paediatric patients with ABI (age range 7-15 years).
We recorded high-density EEG (128 electrodes) during sleep at the beginning and end of rehabilitation. We used sleep EEG data of 52 typically developing children to calculate age-normalized values for individual patients. In patients, we also assessed every-day life memory impairment at the beginning and end of rehabilitation.
In the course of rehabilitation, memory recovery was paralleled by longitudinal changes in SWA over posterior parietal brain areas. SWA over left prefrontal and occipital brain areas at the beginning of rehabilitation predicted memory recovery.
We show that longitudinal sleep-EEG measurements are feasible in the clinical setting. While posterior parietal and prefrontal brain areas are known to belong to the memory "core network", occipital brain areas have never been related to memory. While we have to remain cautious in interpreting preliminary findings, we suggest that SWA is a promising measure to investigate neural reorganization.