Effects of aging on slow-wave sleep dynamics and human spatial navigational memory consolidation

Andrew W. Varga, Emma L. Ducca, Akifumi Kishi, Esther Fischer, Ankit Parekh, Viachaslau Koushyk, Po Lai Yau, Tyler Gumb, David P. Leibert, Margaret E. Wohlleber, Omar E. Burschtin, Antonio Convit, David M. Rapoport, Ricardo S. Osorio, Indu Ayappa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Scopus citations


The consolidation of spatial navigational memory during sleep is supported by electrophysiological and behavioral evidence. The features of sleep that mediate this ability may change with aging, as percentage of slow-wave sleep is canonically thought to decrease with age, and slow waves are thought to help orchestrate hippocampal-neocortical dialog that supports systems level consolidation. In this study, groups of younger and older subjects performed timed trials before and after polysomnographically recorded sleep on a 3D spatial maze navigational task. Although younger subjects performed better than older subjects at baseline, both groups showed similar improvement across presleep trials. However, younger subjects experienced significant improvement in maze performance during sleep that was not observed in older subjects, without differences in morning psychomotor vigilance between groups. Older subjects had sleep quality marked by decreased amount of slow-wave sleep and increased fragmentation of slow-wave sleep, resulting in decreased slow-wave activity. Across all subjects, frontal slow-wave activity was positively correlated with both overnight change in maze performance and medial prefrontal cortical volume, illuminating a potential neuroanatomical substrate for slow-wave activity changes with aging and underscoring the importance of slow-wave activity in sleep-dependent spatial navigational memory consolidation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)142-149
Number of pages8
JournalNeurobiology of Aging
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Brain imaging
  • Maze
  • Prefrontal cortex
  • Psychomotor vigilance
  • Sleep fragmentation


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