Phase-locked auditory stimulation of theta oscillations during rapid eye movement sleep

Marcus O. Harrington, Jennifer E. Ashton, Hong-Viet V. Ngo, Scott A. Cairney

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17 Citations (Scopus)
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Auditory closed-loop stimulation is a non-invasive technique that has been widely used to augment slow oscillations during non-rapid eye movement sleep. Based on the principles of closed-loop stimulation, we developed a novel protocol for manipulating theta activity (3-7 Hz) in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Sixteen healthy young adults were studied in two overnight conditions: Stimulation and Sham. In the Stimulation condition, 1 s of 5 Hz amplitude-modulated white noise was delivered upon detection of two supra-threshold theta cycles throughout REM sleep. In the Sham condition, corresponding time points were marked but no stimulation was delivered. Auditory stimulation entrained EEG activity to 5 Hz and evoked a brief (~0.5 s) increase in theta power. Interestingly, this initial theta surge was immediately followed by a prolonged (~3 s) period of theta suppression. Stimulation also induced a prolonged (~2 s) increase in beta power. Our results provide the first demonstration that the REM sleep theta rhythm can be manipulated in a targeted manner via auditory stimulation. Accordingly, auditory stimulation might offer a fruitful avenue for investigating REM sleep electrophysiology and its relationship to behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberzsaa227
Issue number4
Early online date7 Nov 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2021


  • auditory stimulation
  • rapid eye movement sleep
  • theta

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