PublicationsAge-related changes in fast spindle clustering during NREM sleep and their relevance for memory consolidation
Sleep plays a crucial role in memory consolidation. Recent data in rodents and young adults revealed that fast spindle band power fluctuates at a 0.02-Hz infraslow scale during non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep. These fluctuations result from a periodic temporal clustering of spindles and may modulate sleep maintenance and memory consolidation. With age, sleep undergoes substantial changes but age-related changes in spindle clustering have never been investigated. Polysomnography data were collected in 147 older (mean age ± SD: 69.3 ± 4.1 years) and 32 young-middle aged (34.5 ± 10.9 years) adults. Sleep-dependent memory consolidation was assessed in a subsample of 57 older adults using a visuospatial memory task. We analyzed power fluctuations in fast spindle frequency band, detected fast spindles and quantified their clustering during the night separating encoding and retrieval. Fast spindle band power fluctuated at a 0.02-Hz infraslow scale in young-middle aged and older adults. However, the proportion of clustered fast spindles decreased non-linearly with age (p < 0.001). This effect was not mediated by NREM sleep fragmentation. The clustering level of fast spindles modulated their characteristics (p < 0.001). Finally, the mean size of spindle clusters was positively associated with memory consolidation (p = 0.036) and negatively with NREM sleep micro-arousals density (p = 0.033). These results suggest that clusters of fast spindles may constitute stable sleep periods promoting off-line processes such as memory consolidation. We emphasize the relevance of considering spindle dynamics, obviously impaired during ageing, to understand the impact of age-related sleep changes on memory.