By Silvia Scarpetta (University of Salerno, Italy). November 8th, 2022.

Recent experimental results and theoretical models have supported the idea that brain self-organizes to criticality [1], to maximize dynamical range and computational capabilities. In humans, sleep plays a crucial role to re-tune the system towards criticality [2]. We explore neural avalanches, and the scaling relation among critical exponents, in overnight EEG recordings in human healthy subjects, during NREM sleep [3]. Notably, the distributions of the avalanches’ size and duration, and mean size as a function of duration, are well described by a power laws with critical exponents in agreement with mean-field directed percolation class. Moreover, we study the correlation between the avalanches’ spatiotemporal structure and the sleep macro and microstructure as reflected by the CAP framework [4]. Overall, our findings provide evidence of a link between the avalanche’s occurrence, slow-wave sleep dynamics, sleep stages transitions and CAP-phase A.


  1. Chialvo, D. R. (2010). Emergent complex neural dynamics. Nature physics, 6(10), 744-750.
  2. Meisel, C. et al (2013). Fading signatures of critical brain dynamics during sustained wakefulness in humans. Journal of Neuroscience, 33(44), 17363-17372.
  3. Silvia Scarpetta et al Scale-free avalanches in humans NREM sleep and their relationships with sleep macro and microstructure. bioRxiv 2022.07.12.499725; doi:
  4. Terzano, M. G., Parrino, et al . (2000). CAP components and EEG synchronization in the first 3 sleep cycles. Clinical neurophysiology, 111(2), 283-290.

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