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FASEB J. 2009 Oct;23(10):3629-36. doi: 10.1096/fj.08-122853. Epub 2009 Jun 22.

Enhancing influence of intranasal interleukin-6 on slow-wave activity and memory consolidation during sleep.

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Department of Neuroendocrinology, University of Lübeck, Ratzeburger Allee 160, 23538 Lübeck, Germany.


The cytokine IL-6 has been considered to exert neuromodulating influences on the brain, with promoting influences on sleep. Sleep enhances the consolidation of memories, and, in particular, late nocturnal sleep also represents a period of enhanced IL-6 signaling, due to a distinctly enhanced availability of soluble IL-6 receptors during this period, enabling trans-signaling of IL-6 to neurons. Thus, a contribution of IL-6 to sleep-dependent memory consolidation is hypothesized. To test this hypothesis, we compared effects of intranasally administered IL-6 (vs. placebo) on sleep-dependent consolidation of declarative (neutral and emotional texts, 2-dimensional object location) and procedural (finger sequence tapping) memories in 17 healthy young men. IL-6 distinctly improved the sleep-related consolidation of emotional text material (P<0.03), which benefits mostly from sleep in the second night-half, in which rapid eye movement sleep (REM) dominates the non-REM-REM sleep cycle. During this second night-half, the amount of electroencephalogram slow-wave activity (0.5-4 Hz) distinctly increased after IL-6 (P<0.01). Other types of memory were not affected. The ability of IL-6 to enhance sleep-associated emotional memory consolidation highlights an example of a functional interaction between the central nervous and immune system.

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