Interrelations and functional roles of key oscillatory activities during daytime sleep in older adults

Larissa N. WüstDaria AntonenkoRobert MalinowskiLiliia KhakimovaUlrike GrittnerKlaus ObermayerJulia LadenbauerAgnes Flöel

Certain neurophysiological characteristics of sleep, in particular slow oscillations (SOs), sleep spindles, and their temporal coupling, have been well characterised and associated with human memory abilities. Delta waves, which are somewhat higher in frequency and lower in amplitude compared to SOs, and their interaction with spindles have only recently been found to play a critical role in memory processing of rodents, through a competitive interaction between SO–spindle and delta–spindle coupling. However, human studies that comprehensively address delta wave interactions with spindles and SOs, as well as their functional role for memory are still lacking. Electroencephalographic data were acquired across three naps of 33 healthy older human participants (17 female) to investigate delta–spindle coupling and the interplay between delta- and SO-related activity. Additionally, we determined intra-individual stability of coupling measures and their potential link to the ability to form novel memories in a verbal memory task. Our results revealed weaker delta–spindle compared to SO–spindle coupling. Contrary to our initial hypothesis, we found no evidence for an opposing dependency between SO- and delta-related activities during non-rapid eye movement sleep. Moreover, the ratio between SO- and delta-nested spindles rather than SO–spindle and delta–spindle coupling measures by themselves predicted the ability to form novel memories best. In conclusion, our results do not confirm previous findings in rodents on competitive interactions between delta activity and SO–spindle coupling in older adults. However, they support the hypothesis that SO, delta wave, and spindle activity should be jointly considered when aiming to link sleep physiology and memory formation.

J Sleep Res. 1–11 (2023)


phase amplitude couplingslow oscillation/delta nesting index
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