New evidence provides clues about the role of a key sleep-related brain activity pattern in the brain: this waveform may help keep the mind asleep through nonthreatening disturbances, rather than wake it up as previous studies have suggested, a paper in this week's Science reports.
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The brain pattern in question, called the K-complex (KC), is the largest characterized neurological event in the healthy human brain. Common throughout certain sleep stages, the KC is defined by a brief, high-amplitude waveform followed by a longer, voltage-negative peak. KCs were first described in the1930s, less than 20 years after the first human studies employing electroencephalography (EEG), a method for recording the electrical activity of the brain along the scalp. KCs, researchers found, could be elicited by a soft noise, such as a knock on the door of a sleeping subject. This raised the question of whether KCs participate in rousing the...

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