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Behav Neurosci. 2013 Oct;127(5):803-10. doi: 10.1037/a0034154.

Sleep quality in healthy older people: relationship with ¹H magnetic resonance spectroscopy markers of glial and neuronal integrity.

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  • 1Healthy Brain Aging Program, University of Sydney.


The hippocampus and thalamus assume a significant role in the overnight consolidation of memories, a process that is negatively impacted by sleep disruption. Emerging evidence suggests that disturbances of sleep in older people may co-occur with underlying neurobiological changes. This study sought to assess glial and neuronal integrity in these regions in relation to subjective sleep disturbance in a healthy older sample. Forty-three healthy older people (mean age = 70, SD = 5.0) were assessed clinically and medically and screened for cognitive and depressive symptoms, as well as sleep disturbance. Single voxel hippocampal and thalamus metabolite ratios of N-acetyl aspartate (NAA) and myo-inositol (mI) with total creatine (Cr + PCr) were measured using magnetic resonance spectroscopy at 3-Tesla. Higher hippocampal mI/Cr + PCr ratios were significantly correlated with poorer self-reported sleep quality (r = .42, p < .01) and less sleep efficiency (r = -0.42, p < .01) as recorded by the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (Buysse, Reynolds, Monk, Berman, & Kupfer, 1989). No other significant correlations were observed within the hippocampus or within the thalamus. These results indicate that in healthy older people, subjective sleep disturbance may be associated with glial alterations in the hippocampus. Future research is now needed to examine these associations with respect to objective sleep measures and overnight memory consolidation.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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