Strong relationship between NREM sleep, epilepsy and plastic functions — A conceptual review on the neurophysiology background

P. Halász, R. Bódizs, Przemysla Péter Ujma, Dániel Fabó, A. Szűcs

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

5 Citations (Scopus)


The aim of this review is to summarize and discuss the strong bond between NREM sleep and epilepsy underlain by the shared link and effect on brain plasticity. Beyond the seizure occurrence rate, sleep relatedness may manifest in the enhancement of interictal epileptic discharges (spikes and pathological ripples). The number of the discharges as well as their propagation increase during NREM sleep, unmasking the epileptic network that is hidden during wakefulness. The interictal epileptic discharges associate with different sleep constituents (sleep slow waves, spindling and high frequency oscillations); known to play essential role in memory and learning. We highlight three major groups of epilepsies, in which sleep-related plastic functions suffer an epileptic derailment. In absence epilepsy mainly involving the thalamo-cortical system, sleep spindles transform to generalized spike-wave activity. In mesio-temporal epilepsy affecting the hippocampal declarative memory system, the sharp wave ripples derail to dysfunctional epileptic oscillations (spikes and pathological ripples). Idiopathic childhood epilepsies affecting the perisylvian network may progress to catastrophic status electricus during NREM sleep. In these major epilepsies, NREM sleep has a pivotal role in the development and course of the disorder. Epilepsy is born in-, and exhibits its pathological properties during NREM sleep. Interictal discharges are important causative agents in this process.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)95-105
Number of pages11
JournalEpilepsy Research
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1 2019


  • Brain plasticity
  • Epileptic derailment
  • Interictal epileptic activity
  • NREM sleep
  • Sleep-related epilepsy
  • System epilepsy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology

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