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Hot Publication - Wilckens et al.

The role of non-rapid eye movement slow wave activity in prefrontal metabolism across young and middle-aged adults
Wilckens KA, Aizenstein HJ, Nofzinger EA, James JA, Hasler BP, Rosario-Rivera BL, Franzen PL, Germain A, Hall MH, Kupfer DJ, Price JC, Siegle GJ and Buysse DJ
Journal of Sleep Research, 25:296–306 (2016)


Slow-wave sleep is a marker for cortical reorganization, particularly within the prefrontal cortex, and reflects the deepest stage of sleep. Greater slow wave sleep may promote greater waking prefrontal metabolic rate and, in turn, executive function. However, this process may decline with age. 

Dr. Wilckens and colleagues examined whether greater slow-wave sleep was associated with higher prefrontal metabolism as well as other regions important for executive function during wakefulness in young and middle age adults. They examined whether these relationships interacted with age to determine whether slow-wave sleep mitigates effects of age on cerebral metabolism.  

Fifty-two participants aged 25-61 years were enrolled into studies that included overnight sleep studies and a positron emission tomography brain scan during wakefulness. Their results showed that greater slow-wave sleep was associated with greater dorsolateral prefrontal metabolism. Age and slow wave activity interacted in predicting metabolism across the brain, mostly in the posterior cingulate, middle temporal gyrus and the medial frontal gyrus, such that greater slow wave sleep was associated with lower metabolism in the younger participants and greater metabolism in the middle age participants. Their results suggest that higher slow-wave sleep in middle age is associated with greater cerebral metabolism within regions important for executive function.

These findings will inform future interventions that will increase slow-wave activity in older adults to boost prefrontal function and cognitive performance. 

Contributors:
Kristine A. Wilckens, PhD, Howard J. Aizenstein, MD, PhD, Eric A. Nofzinger, PhD, Brant P. Hasler, PhD, Peter L. Franzen, PhD, Anne Germain, PhD, Martica Hall, PhD, David J. Kupfer, MD, Greg J. Siegle, PhD and Daniel J. Buysse, MD (Department of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine)

Julie C. Price, PhD and Jeffrey A. James (Department of Radiology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine)

Bedda L Rosario-Rivera, PhD (Department of Epidemiology, University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health)

This article appears in the Journal of Sleep Research.  Click here to view the abstract.