Precise slow oscillation-spindle coupling promotes memory consolidation in younger and older adults

  • Memory consolidation during sleep relies on the precisely timed interaction of rhythmic neural events. Here, we investigate differences in slow oscillations (SO; 0.5–1 Hz), sleep spindles (SP), and their coupling across the adult human lifespan and ask whether observed alterations relate to the ability to retain associative memories across sleep. We demonstrate that older adults do not show the fine-tuned coupling of fast SPs (12.5–16 Hz) to the SO peak present in younger adults but, instead, are characterized most by a slow SP power increase (9–12.5 Hz) at the end of the SO up-state. This slow SP power increase, typical for older adults, coincides with worse memory consolidation in young age already, whereas the tight precision of SO–fast SP coupling promotes memory consolidation across younger and older adults. Crucially, brain integrity in source regions of SO and SP generation, including the medial prefrontal cortex, thalamus, hippocampus and entorhinal cortex, reinforces this beneficial SO–SP coupling in old age. Our results reveal that cognitive functioning is not only determined by maintaining structural brain integrity across the adult lifespan, but also by the preservation of precisely timed neural interactions during sleep that enable the consolidation of declarative memories.

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Author:Beate E. Mühlroth, Myriam Christine Sander, Yana Fandakova, Thomas H. Grandy, Björn Rasch, Yee Lee ShingORCiDGND, Markus Werkle-Bergner
Parent Title (English):Scientific reports
Publisher:Macmillan Publishers Limited, part of Springer Nature
Place of publication:[London]
Contributor(s):Julia Delius
Document Type:Article
Year of Completion:2019
Date of first Publication:2019/02/13
Publishing Institution:Universitätsbibliothek Johann Christian Senckenberg
Release Date:2019/02/19
Tag:Cognitive ageing; Cognitive neuroscience; Consolidation; Human behaviour; Long-term memory
Issue:1, Art. 1940
Page Number:15
First Page:1
Last Page:15
Open Access: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visit
Institutes:Psychologie und Sportwissenschaften / Psychologie
Dewey Decimal Classification:1 Philosophie und Psychologie / 15 Psychologie / 150 Psychologie
Licence (German):License LogoCreative Commons - Namensnennung 4.0