Pharmacopsychiatry 2009; 42(1): 9-13
DOI: 10.1055/s-0028-1083820
Original Paper

© Georg Thieme Verlag KG Stuttgart · New York

The Effects of Donepezil on Postlearning Sleep EEG of Healthy Older Adults

O. P. Hornung 1 , F. Regen 1 , H. Dorn 1 , I. Anghelescu 1 , N. Kathmann 2 , M. Schredl 3 , H. Danker-Hopfe 1 , I. Heuser 1
  • 1Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Charité – University Medicine Berlin, Campus Benjamin Franklin, Berlin, Germany
  • 2Institute of Psychology, Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany
  • 3Central Institute of Mental Health, Mannheim, Germany
Further Information

Publication History

received 03.12.2007 revised 02.06.2008

accepted 02.06.2008

Publication Date:
19 January 2009 (online)


Introduction: Aging is associated with cholinergic hypofunction and memory decline. Cholinergic activity also plays a crucial role in sleep-dependent memory consolidation. The acetylcholinesterase inhibitor (AChE-I) donepezil has been found to increase sleep-related procedural memory consolidation in healthy older adults in a previous study.

Methods: Data of the former study were reanalyzed with regard to the effects of donepezil on the sleep EEG of healthy older adults. This analysis was conducted with a special focus on spectral parameters of sleep, which have previously been linked to plasticity-related processes during sleep, i.e., sigma and delta activity. Forty-two participants (aged: 60–77 years) received 5 mg of the AChE-I donepezil orally 30 min before bedtime in a placebo-controlled, double-blind design. Power values for EEG delta, theta, alpha1, alpha 2, sigma, beta and gamma frequency bands were calculated for stage 2 NREM sleep, SWS and REM sleep.

Results: In line with our hypotheses, the AChE-I donepezil led to an increase in sigma activity during stage 2 NREM sleep and delta activity during slow wave sleep.

Conclusion: These results suggest that an AChE-I facilitates processes of sleep-dependent memory consolidation in older adults.



Dr. O. P. Hornung

Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy

Charité – University Medicine Berlin

Campus Benjamin Franklin

Eschenallee 3

14050 Berlin


Phone: +49/30/8445/87 71

Fax: +49/30/8445/82 33