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Reduced overnight memory consolidation and associated alterations in sleep spindles and slow oscillations in early Alzheimer’s disease

Publication year 2024
Published in Neurobiology of Disease
Authors Annika Hanert, Robby Schönfeld, Frederik D Weber, Alexander Nowak, Juliane Döhring, Sarah Philippen, Oliver Granert, Andrea Burgalossi, Jan Born, Daniela Berg, Robert Göder, Peter Häussermann, Thorsten Bartsch

Spatial navigation critically underlies hippocampal-entorhinal circuit function that is early affected in Alzheimer's disease (AD). There is growing evidence that AD pathophysiology dynamically interacts with the sleep/wake cycle impairing hippocampal memory. To elucidate sleep-dependent consolidation in a cohort of symptomatic AD patients (n = 12, 71.25 ± 2.16 years), we tested hippocampal place learning by means of a virtual reality task and verbal memory by a word-pair association task before and after a night of sleep. Our results show an impaired overnight memory retention in AD compared with controls in the verbal task, together with a significant reduction of sleep spindle activity (i.e., lower amplitude of fast sleep spindles, p = 0.016) and increased duration of the slow oscillation (SO; p = 0.019). Higher spindle density, faster down-to-upstate transitions within SO, and the time delay between SO and nested spindles predicted better memory performance in healthy controls but not in AD patients. Our results show that mnemonic processing and memory consolidation in AD is slightly impaired as reflected by dysfunctional oscillatory dynamics and spindle-SO coupling during NonREM sleep. In this translational study based on experimental paradigms in animals and extending previous work in healthy aging and preclinical disease stages, our results in symptomatic AD further deepen the understanding of the memory decline within a bidirectional relationship of sleep and AD pathology.

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