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Delta waves, an EEG (electroencephalograph) one second sample

A delta wave is a high amplitude brain wave with a frequency of 1–4 hertz which can be recorded with an electroencephalogram[1] (EEG) and is usually associated with slow-wave sleep (SWS).

Delta wave activity occurs most frequently during stage N3 slow-wave sleep, accounting for 20% or more of the EEG record during this stage.[2] These waves are believed to originate in the thalamus in coordination with the reticular formation.[3]


Throughout the lifespan

Analysis of the waking EEG of a newborn infant indicates that delta wave activity is predominant in that age, and still appears in a waking EEG of five-year-olds.[4] Delta wave activity during slow-wave sleep declines during adolescence, with a drop of around 25% reported between the ages of 11 and 14 years.[5]


High delta wave activity during the waking state is not common in healthy adults. However, multiple studies have indicated the presence of increased delta activity in adults during states of intoxication or delirium and in those diagnosed with dementia or schizophrenia.[6]

See also


  1. ^ Walker, Peter (1999). Chambers dictionary of science and technology. Edinburgh: Chambers. pp. 312. ISBN 0-550-14110-3.  
  2. ^ Iber C, Ancoli-Israel S, Chesson A, and Quan SF for the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. The AASM Manual for the Scoring of Sleep and Associated Events: Rules, Terminology and Technical Specifications, 1st ed.: Westchester, Illinois: American Academy of Sleep Medicine, 2007.
  3. ^ Gross, Richard E. (1992). Psychology: the science of mind and behaviour. London: Hodder & Stoughton. pp. 112–113. ISBN 034056136x.  
  4. ^ Taylor, Eric; Rutter, Michael (2002). Child and adolescent psychiatry. Oxford: Blackwell Science. pp. 162. ISBN 0-632-05361-5.  
  5. ^ "Brain Wave Changes In Adolescence Signal Reorganization Of The Brain". ScienceDaily. 08-12-2006. Retrieved 2008-03-24.  
  6. ^ Hales, Robert E.; Yudofsky, Stuart C. (2007). The American Psychiatric Publishing Textbook of Neuropsychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences, Fifth Edition (American Psychiatric Press Textbook of Neuropsychiatry). American Psychiatric Publishing, Inc. ISBN 1-58562-239-7.  


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