Research Article

Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 232, Issue 5, pp 1479-1485

Theta frequency activity during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep is greater in people with resilience versus PTSD

  • Nancy CowdinAffiliated withInterdisciplinary Program in Neuroscience, Georgetown University
  • , Ihori KobayashiAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry, Howard University College of Medicine
  • , Thomas A. MellmanAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry, Howard University College of Medicine Email author 

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Emotional memory consolidation has been associated with rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, and recent evidence suggests that increased electroencephalogram spectral power in the theta (4–8 Hz) frequency range indexes this activity. REM sleep has been implicated in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as well as in emotional adaption. In this cross-sectional study, thirty young healthy African American adults with trauma exposure were assessed for PTSD status using the Clinician Administered PTSD Scale. Two consecutive night polysomnographic (PSG) recordings were performed and data scored for sleep stages. Quantitative electroencephalographic spectral analysis was used to measure theta frequency components sampled from REM sleep periods of the second-night PSG recordings. Our objective was to compare relative theta power between trauma-exposed participants who were either resilient or had developed PTSD. Results indicated higher right prefrontal theta power during the first and last REM periods in resilient participants compared with participants with PTSD. Right hemisphere prefrontal theta power during REM sleep may serve as a biomarker of the capacity for adaptive emotional memory processing among trauma-exposed individuals.


Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) Resilience Trauma Polysomnography (PSG) Quantitative EEG (qEEG) Spectral analysis