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The impedance is a fundamental electrical property of brain tissue, playing a crucial role in shaping the characteristics of local field potentials, the extent of ephaptic coupling, and the volume of tissue activated by externally applied electrical brain stimulation. We tracked brain impedance, sleep-wake behavioral state, and epileptiform activity in five people with epilepsy living in their natural environment using an investigational device. The study identified impedance oscillations that span hours to weeks in the amygdala, hippocampus, and anterior nucleus thalamus. The impedance in these limbic brain regions exhibit multiscale cycles with ultradian (∼ 1.5 - 1.7 hr.), circadian (∼ 21.6 - 26.4 hr.) and infradian (∼20 - 33 days) periods. The ultradian and circadian period cycles are driven by sleep-wake state transitions between wakefulness, non-rapid-eye-movement (NREM) sleep, and rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep. Limbic brain tissue impedance reaches a minimum value in NREM sleep, intermediate values in REM sleep, and rises through the day during wakefulness reaching a maximum in the early evening before sleep onset. Infradian (∼20 - 33 days) impedance cycles were not associated with a distinct behavioral correlate. Brain tissue impedance is known to strongly depend on the ECS volume, and the findings reported here are consistent with sleep-wake dependent ECS volume changes recently observed in the rodent cortex related to the brain glymphatic system. We hypothesize that human limbic brain ECS changes during sleep-wake state transitions underlie the observed multiscale impedance cycles. Impedance is a simple electrophysiological biomarker that could prove useful for tracking ECS dynamics in human health, disease, and therapy.Significance StatementThe electrical impedance in limbic brain structures (amygdala, hippocampus, anterior nucleus thalamus) is shown to exhibit oscillations over multiple time scales. We observe that impedance oscillations with ultradian and circadian periodicities are associated with transitions between wakefulness, non-rapid-eye-movement (NREM) and rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep states. There are also impedance oscillations spanning multiple weeks that do not have a clear behavioral correlate and whose origin remains unclear. These multiscale impedance oscillations will impact extracellular ionic currents that give rise to local field potentials, ephaptic coupling, and the tissue activated by electrical brain stimulation. The approach for measuring tissue impedance using perturbational electrical currents is an established engineering technique that may be useful for tracking extracellular space (ECS) volume.

Original publication




Journal article


J Neurosci

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