Aging induces multiple changes to sleep spindles, which may hinder their alleged functional role in memory and sleep protection mechanisms. Brain aging in specific cortical regions could affect the neural networks underlying spindle generation, yet the topography of these age-related changes is currently unknown. In the present study, we analyzed spindle characteristics in 114 healthy volunteers aged between 20 and 73 years over 5 anteroposterior electroencephalography scalp derivations. Spindle density, amplitude, and duration were higher in young subjects than in middle-aged and elderly subjects in all derivations, but the topography of age effects differed drastically. Age-related decline in density and amplitude was more prominent in anterior derivations, whereas duration showed a posterior prominence. Age groups did not differ in all-night spindle frequency for any derivation. These results show that age-related changes in sleep spindles follow distinct topographical patterns that are specific to each spindle characteristic. This topographical specificity may provide a useful biomarker to localize age-sensitive changes in underlying neural systems during normal and pathological aging.
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