Sleep spindles: a physiological marker of age-related changes in gray matter in brain regions supporting motor skill memory consolidation

Stuart Fogel, Catherine Vien, Avi Karni, Habib Benali, Julie Carrier, Julien Doyon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Sleep is necessary for the optimal consolidation of procedural learning, and in particular, for motor sequential skills. Motor sequence learning remains intact with age, but sleep-dependent consolidation is impaired, suggesting that memory deficits for procedural skills are specifically impacted by age-related changes in sleep. Age-related changes in spindles may be responsible for impaired motor sequence learning consolidation, but the morphological basis for this deficit is unknown. Here, we found that gray matter in the hippocampus and cerebellum was positively correlated with both sleep spindles and offline improvements in performance in young participants but not in older participants. These results suggest that age-related changes in gray matter in the hippocampus relate to spindles and may underlie age-related deficits in sleep-related motor sequence memory consolidation. In this way, spindles can serve as a biological marker for structural brain changes and the related memory deficits in older adults.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)154-164
Number of pages11
JournalNeurobiology of Aging
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to acknowledge the technical support of Vo An Nguyen, Laura Ray, Andre Cyr, Carollyn Hurst, Frederic Jeay, and Amel Bouyoucef. This research was funded by a Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) grant ( MOP-97830 ) to author Doyon J and fellowship support to author Fogel S from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC; PDF-373124-2009 ), the Fonds de Recherche du Quebec (FRSQ; 23508 ).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Elsevier Inc.


  • Age
  • Cerebellum
  • Consolidation
  • Hippocampus
  • Learning
  • Memory
  • Motor sequence learning
  • Motor skills
  • Procedural memory
  • Sleep
  • Spindle

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience (all)
  • Aging
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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