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Biol Psychiatry. 2007 Mar 15;61(6):750-7. Epub 2006 Dec 4.

The relationship between REM sleep and memory consolidation in old age and effects of cholinergic medication.

Author information

  • 1Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Charité-University Medicine Berlin, Campus Benjamin Franklin, Berlin, Germany. orla.hornung@charite.de

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Recent findings in young adults suggest that rapid eye movement (REM) sleep plays a role in procedural memory consolidation. The significance of REM sleep for memory consolidation in old age has not yet been investigated.

METHODS:

Effects of REM sleep manipulation on declarative and procedural memory consolidation were investigated in 107 healthy older adults, ages 60-82 years. Rapid eye movement sleep deprivation was achieved by REM sleep awakenings and compared with non-REM sleep awakenings. Rapid eye movement sleep augmentation was realized physiologically by REM sleep rebound and pharmacologically by administering an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor in a double-blind, placebo-controlled design. Memory performance was tested by a paired associate list and a mirror tracing task at 9:30 pm and 7:30 am with sleep intervening between 11:00 pm and 7:00 am.

RESULTS:

Although REM sleep deprivation led to a significant reduction in total and phasic REM sleep, memory consolidation remained unaffected. Both REM sleep augmentation groups showed a significant increase in phasic REM sleep, whereas only pharmacological cholinergic REM sleep manipulation exerted a significant positive effect on procedural memory consolidation.

CONCLUSIONS:

Because only after cholinergic stimulation of phasic REM sleep procedural memory consolidation is improved, cholinergic activation seems to be a crucial component of REM sleep-related memory consolidation in old age.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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