INTRODUCTION: Sleep slow wave activity (SWA, EEG power between 1 and 4.5 Hz) is a major characteristic of non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep, which seems to be critically involved in cortical plasticity. Studies using high-density electroencephalography (hd-EEG) showed that the topographical distribution of SWA mirrors cortical maturation, expressing a local maximum that is characteristic for a certain age range. We compared the sleep EEG of children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) with healthy controls to explore differences in sleep SWA.
METHODS: All-night hd-EEG recordings (128 electrodes) were performed in a group of nine children diagnosed with ADHD and nine age- and sex-matched healthy controls. SWA topography was calculated and contrasted between the groups.
RESULTS: We found a local increase of SWA in a cluster of six electrodes over central regions in children with ADHD compared to control children (+17% ± 6% SE, p < .01). This group difference was specific for the SWA range and stable across the night.
CONCLUSIONS: Children with ADHD showed a less mature topographical SWA distribution in comparison to healthy children of the same age and sex. This neuromaturational delay in ADHD is in accordance with neuroimaging and behavioral studies. Thus, our study supports the use of sleep SWA topography as a reliable imaging tool for the study of cortical plasticity.