The Iowa Gambling Task (IGT) is widely used to assess real life decision-making impairment in a wide variety of clinical populations. Our study evaluated how IGT learning occurs across two sessions, and whether a period of intervening sleep between sessions can enhance learning. Furthermore, we investigate whether pre-sleep learning is necessary for this improvement. A 200-trial version of the IGT was administered at two sessions separated by wake, sleep or sleep and wake (time-of-day control). Participants were categorized as learners and non-learners based on initial performance in session one. In session one, participants initially preferred the high-frequency reward decks B and D, however, a subset of learners decreased choice from negative expected value 'bad' deck B and increased choices towards with a positive expected value 'good' decks (decks C and D). The learners who had a period of sleep (sleep and sleep/wake control conditions) between sessions showed significantly larger reduction in choices from deck B and increase in choices from good decks compared to learners that had intervening wake. Our results are the first to show that post-learning sleep can improve performance on a complex decision-making task such as the IGT. These results provide new insights into IGT learning and have important implications for understanding the neural mechanisms of "sleeping on" a decision.
The present study had two main objectives. The first objective was to compare the sleep architecture of young and older adults, with an emphasis on sleep spindle density and REM density. The second objective was to examine two aspects of age differences that have not been considered in previous studies: age differences in the variability of sleep measures as well as the magnitude of age differences in phasic events across the distribution of values (i.e., at each decile rather than a single measure of location such as the mean or median. A total of 24 young (mean age=20.75 ± 1.78 years) and 24 older (mean age=71.17 ± 6.15 years) adults underwent in-home polysomnography. Whole-night spindle density was significantly higher in young adults than older adults. The two age groups did not differ significantly in whole-night REM density, although significant increases in REM density across the night were observed in both age groups. These results suggest that spindle density is more affected by age than REM density. Although age differences were observed in the degree of absolute variability (older adults had significantly larger variances than young adults for sleep efficiency and time spent awake after sleep onset), a similar pattern was also observed within the two age groups: the four sleep measures with the lowest degrees of relative variability were the same and included time spent in REM and Stage 2 sleep, total sleep time, and sleep efficiency. The distributional analysis of age differences in sleep spindle density revealed that the largest age differences were initially observed in the middle of the distributions, but as the night progressed, they were seen at the upper end of the distributions. The results reported here have potential implications for the causes and functional implications of age-related changes in sleep architecture.
The relationship between emotional or neutral declarative memory consolidation and sleep architecture was investigated. Thirty university students (21 females) viewed negative, neutral, or positive pictures and rated their valence and arousal in the evening. Participants performed a recognition test 1 h later and then underwent overnight polysomnography. Their post-encoding sleep architecture was compared to a baseline night. Participants returned 6 days following encoding for a second recognition test. Results showed no group (Negative, Neutral, Positive) differences in recognition 1 h or 6 days following encoding. Stage 2 sleep spindle density decreased across all groups following encoding, and recognition after 6 days was positively correlated with Stage 2 sleep spindle density on both nights. There was no change in REM density in any of the groups. This is the first investigation into phasic sleep microarchitecture changes following emotional and neutral declarative learning. Future investigations may benefit from more salient emotional stimuli.
Avoidance learning affects post-training sleep, and post-training sleep deprivation impairs performance. However, not all rats learn to make avoidance responses, and some rats fail to escape; a definitive behavior of learned helplessness, a model of depression. This study investigated the changes in sleep associated with different behaviors adopted following avoidance training. Rats (n=53) were trained for 100 trials over 2 days (50 trials/day), followed by 23-24 h of post-training polysomnography, then re-tested (25 trials). At re-test, rats were categorized into: 1) Active Avoiders (AA; n=22), 2), Non-learning (NL; n=21), or 3) Escape Failures (EF; n=10). AA rats increased avoidances over days, whereas the NL and EF groups did not. EF rats increased escape failures over days, whereas the NL and AA rats did not. EF rats had increased rapid eye movement (REM) sleep in the first 4h on training day 1. They also had increased non-REM sleep in the first 4h and last 4h on both training days. AA rats had increased REM sleep 13-20 h post-training. The type of behavioral strategy adopted throughout training is associated with a unique pattern of changes in post-training sleep. Training-dependent changes in post-acquisition sleep may reflect distinct processes involved in the consolidation of these different memory traces.
Until recently, the electrophysiological mechanisms involved in strengthening new memories into a more permanent form during sleep have been largely unknown. The sleep spindle is an event in the electroencephalogram (EEG) characterizing Stage 2 sleep. Sleep spindles may reflect, at the electrophysiological level, an ideal mechanism for inducing long-term synaptic changes in the neocortex. Recent evidence suggests the spindle is highly correlated with tests of intellectual ability (e.g.; IQ tests) and may serve as a physiological index of intelligence. Further, spindles increase in number and duration in sleep following new learning and are correlated with performance improvements. Spindle density and sigma (14-16Hz) spectral power have been found to be positively correlated with performance following a daytime nap, and animal studies suggest the spindle is involved in a hippocampal-neocortical dialogue necessary for memory consolidation. The findings reviewed here collectively provide a compelling body of evidence that the function of the sleep spindle is related to intellectual ability and memory consolidation.
The goal of the current investigation was to develop a systematic method to validate the accuracy of an automated method of sleep spindle detection that takes into consideration individual differences in spindle amplitude. The benchmarking approach used here could be employed more generally to validate automated spindle scoring from other detection algorithms. In a sample of Stage 2 sleep from 10 healthy young subjects, spindles were identified both manually and automatically. The minimum amplitude threshold used by the Prana (PhiTools, Strasbourg, France) software spindle detection algorithm to identify a spindle was subject-specific and determined based upon each subjects mean peak spindle amplitude. Overall sensitivity and specificity values were 98.96 and 88.49%, respectively, when compared to manual scoring. Selecting individual amplitude thresholds for spindle detection based on systematic benchmarking data may validate automated spindle detection methods and improve reproducibility of experimental results. Given that interindividual differences are accounted for, we feel that automatic spindle detection provides an accurate and efficient alternative approach for detecting sleep spindles.
What processes are involved in the formation of enduring memory traces? Sleep has been proposed to play a role in memory consolidation and the present study provides evidence to support 2-stage models of sleep and memory including both non-rapid eye movement (NREM) and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Previous research has shown REM sleep increases following avoidance learning and memory is impaired if REM deprivation occurs during these post-training periods indicating that REM sleep may have a role in memory consolidation processes. These discrete post-training periods have been termed REM sleep windows (RSWs). It is not known whether the electroencephalogram has unique characteristics during the RSW. Further investigation of the RSW was one of the primary goals of this study. We investigated the epidural-recorded electrophysiological learning-related changes following avoidance training in rats. Theta power increased in the learning group during the RSW, suggesting that theta is involved in memory consolidation during this period. Sleep spindles subsequently increased in slow wave sleep (SWS). The results suggest that both NREM and REM sleep are involved in sleep-dependent memory consolidation, and provide support for existing 2-stage models. Perhaps first theta increases to organize and consolidate material via hippocampal-neocortical dialogue, followed by subsequent refinement in the cortex by spindles during SWS.
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