Reduction of nocturnal slow-wave activity affects daytime vigilance lapses and memory encoding but not reaction time or implicit learning

Y.D. van der Werf, E. Altena, J.C. Vis, T. Koene, E.J.W. van Someren

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Total sleep deprivation in healthy subjects has a profound effect on the performance on tasks measuring sustained attention or vigilance. We here report how a selective disruption of deep sleep only, that is, selective slow-wave activity (SWA) reduction, affects the performance of healthy well-sleeping subjects on several tasks: a " simple" and a " complex" vigilance task, a declarative learning task, and an implicit learning task despite unchanged duration of sleep.We used automated electroencephalogram (EEG) dependent acoustic feedback aimed at selective interference with-and reduction of-SWA. In a within-subject repeated measures crossover design, performance on the tasks was assessed in 13 elderly adults without sleep complaints after either SWA-reduction or after normal sleep.The number of vigilance lapses increased as a result of SWA reduction, irrespective of the type of vigilance task. Recognition on the declarative memory task was also affected by SWA reduction, associated with a decreased activation of the right hippocampus on encoding (measured with fMRI) suggesting a weaker memory trace. SWA reduction, however, did not affect reaction time on either of the vigilance tasks or implicit memory task performance.These findings suggest a specific role of slow oscillations in the subsequent daytime ability to maintain sustained attention and to encode novel declarative information but not to maintain response speed or to build implicit memories. Of particular interest is that selective SWA reduction can mimic some of the effects of total sleep deprivation, while not affecting sleep duration. © 2011 Elsevier B.V.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)245-255
JournalProgress in brain research
Publication statusPublished - 2011

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