Pharmacopsychiatry 2003; 36 - 131
DOI: 10.1055/s-2003-825382

Does REM-sleep manipulation have a differential effect on learning and memory in healthy older adults?

OP Hornung 1, N Albrecht 1, F Regen 1, H Danker-Hopfe 1, M Schredl 2, I Heuser 1
  • 1Free University of Berlin, Department of Psychiatry, Berlin
  • 2Central Institute of Mental Health Mannheim, Sleep Laboratory, Mannheim

Recent findings suggest a stronger relationship of REM-sleep with procedural than with declarative learning (Plihal & Born, 1999). Older adults have rarely been studied in this context, the same applies to the study of REM-sleep augmentation. The present study investigates the differential effects of REM-sleep deprivation and augmentation on declarative and procedural learning in healthy older adults.

Participants (60–85 years) are randomly assigned to five different groups of n=20 each (REM-sleep deprivation, NREM2-sleep reduction, physiological REM-sleep augmentation, pharmacological / AchE-inhibitor induced REM-sleep augmentation and placebo). Performance in a procedural as well as declarative learning task is investigated before and after the study night.

Preliminary results (N=33) show that the percentage of REM-sleep during the study night correlates significantly only with the procedural learning task but not with the declarative one.

These results indicate that, in agreement with findings in younger adults, REM-sleep is associated with procedural rather than declarative learning.

Plihal, W. & Born, J. (1999). Effects of early and late nocturnal sleep on priming and spatial memory. Psychophysiology, 36, 571–582.