We previously reported that patients with schizophrenia failed to demonstrate normal sleep-dependent improvement in motor procedural learning. Here, we tested whether this failure was associated with the duration of Stage 2 sleep in the last quartile of the night (S2q4) and with spindle activity during this epoch. Fourteen patients with schizophrenia and 15 demographically matched controls performed a motor sequence task (MST) before and after a night of polysomnographically monitored sleep. Patients showed no significant overnight task improvement and significantly less than controls, who did show significant improvement. While there were no group differences in overall sleep architecture, patients showed significant reductions in fast sigma frequency power (45%) and in spindle density (43%) during S2q4 sleep at the electrode proximal to the motor cortex controlling the hand that performed the MST. Although spindle activity did not correlate with overnight improvement in either group, S2q4 sleep duration in patients significantly correlated with the plateau level of overnight improvement seen at the end of the morning testing session, and slow wave sleep (SWS) duration correlated with the delay in reaching this plateau. SWS and S2q4 sleep each predicted the initial level of overnight improvement in schizophrenia, and their product explained 77% of the variance, suggesting that both sleep stages are necessary for consolidation. These findings replicate our prior observation of reduced sleep-dependent consolidation of motor procedural learning in schizophrenia and link this deficit to specific sleep stages. They provide further evidence that sleep is an important contributor to cognitive deficits in schizophrenia.
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