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Sleep. 2019 Nov 18. pii: zsz280. doi: 10.1093/sleep/zsz280. [Epub ahead of print]

Self-reported sleep relates to hippocampal atrophy across the adult lifespan - results from the Lifebrain consortium.

Author information

Center for Lifespan Changes in Brain and Cognition, University of Oslo, Norway.
Department of Radiology and Nuclear Medicine, Oslo University Hospital, Norway.
Departament de Medicina, Facultat de Medicina i Ciències de la Salut, Universitat de Barcelona, and Institut de Neurociències, Universitat de Barcelona, Spain.
Department of Cardiology, Charité - University Medicine Berlin Campus Benjamin Franklin, Berlin, Germany.
Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin, corporate member of Freie Universität Berlin, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, and Berlin Institute of Health, Lipid Clinic at the Interdisciplinary Metabolism Center, Germany; Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin, BCRT - Berlin Institute of Health Center for Regenerative Therapies, Berlin, Germany Lipid Clinic, Interdisciplinary Metabolism Center, Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Germany.
Vitas AS, Research Park, Gaustadalleen 21, 0349, Oslo and 6 University of Oslo, Department of Nutrition, Institute of Basic Medical Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, Medicine/University of Oslo, Norway.
Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Germany.
Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford, United Kingdom.
Oslo Delirium Research Group, Department of Geriatric Medicine, University of Oslo, Norway.
Institute of Basic Medical Sciences, University of Oslo, Norway.
MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom.
Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Germany.
Umeå Center for Functional Brain Imaging, Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden.
Global Brain Health Institute, Department of Neurology, University of California San Francisco, California, USA.
Wellcome Centre for Integrative Neuroimaging, University of Oxford, United Kingdom.
Psychiatric Brain and Body Research Group, Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Jena University Hospital, Jena, Germany.



Poor sleep is associated with multiple age-related neurodegenerative and neuropsychiatric conditions. The hippocampus plays a special role in sleep and sleep-dependent cognition, and accelerated hippocampal atrophy is typically seen with higher age. Hence, it is critical to establish how the relationship between sleep and hippocampal volume loss unfolds across the adult lifespan.


Self-reported sleep measures and MRI-derived hippocampal volumes were obtained from 3105 cognitively normal participants (18-90 years) from major European brain studies in the Lifebrain consortium. Hippocampal volume change was estimated from 5116 MRIs from 1299 participants for whom longitudinal MRIs were available, followed up to 11 years with a mean interval of 3.3 years. Cross-sectional analyses were repeated in a sample of 21390 participants from the UK Biobank.


No cross-sectional sleep - hippocampal volume relationships were found. However, worse sleep quality, efficiency, problems, and daytime tiredness were related to greater hippocampal volume loss over time, with high scorers showing 0.22% greater annual loss than low scorers. The relationship between sleep and hippocampal atrophy did not vary across age. Simulations showed that the observed longitudinal effects were too small to be detected as age-interactions in the cross-sectional analyses.


Worse self-reported sleep is associated with higher rates of hippocampal volume decline across the adult lifespan. This suggests that sleep is relevant to understand individual differences in hippocampal atrophy, but limited effect sizes call for cautious interpretation.


aging; hippocampus; lifespan; longitudinal; self-report; sleep


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