Slow sleep spindle activity, declarative memory, and general cognitive abilities in children.


Study Objectives: Functional interactions between sleep spindle activity, declarative memory consolidation, and general cognitive abilities in school-aged children. Design: Healthy, prepubertal children (n = 63; mean age 9.56 +/- 0.76 y); ambulatory all-night polysomnography (2 nights); investigating the effect of prior learning (word pair association task; experimental night) versus nonlearning (baseline night) on sleep spindle activity; general cognitive abilities assessed using the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-IV (WISC-IV). Measurements and Results: Analysis of spindle activity during nonrapid eye movement sleep (N2 and N3) evidenced predominant peaks in the slow (11-13 Hz) but not in the fast (13-15 Hz) sleep spindle frequency range (baseline and experimental night). Analyses were restricted to slow sleep spindles. Changes in spindle activity from the baseline to the experimental night were not associated with the overnight change in the number of recalled words reflecting declarative memory consolidation. Children with higher sleep spindle activity as measured at frontal, central, parietal, and occipital sites during both baseline and experimental nights exhibited higher general cognitive abilities (WISC-IV) and declarative learning efficiency (i.e., number of recalled words before and after sleep). Conclusions: Slow sleep spindles (11-13 Hz) in children age 8-11 y are associated with inter-individual differences in general cognitive abilities and learning efficiency.