Sleep benefits consolidation of visuo-motor adaptation learning in older adults

Exp Brain Res. 2016 Feb;234(2):587-95. doi: 10.1007/s00221-015-4490-7. Epub 2015 Nov 13.


Sleep is beneficial for performance across a range of memory tasks in young adults, but whether memories are similarly consolidated in older adults is less clear. Performance benefits have been observed following sleep in older adults for declarative learning tasks, but this benefit may be reduced for non-declarative, motor skill learning tasks. To date, studies of sleep-dependent consolidation of motor learning in older adults are limited to motor sequence tasks. To examine whether reduced sleep-dependent consolidation in older adults is generalizable to other forms of motor skill learning, we examined performance changes over intervals of sleep and wake in young (n = 62) and older adults (n = 61) using a mirror-tracing task, which assesses visuo-motor adaptation learning. Participants learned the task either in the morning or in evening, and performance was assessed following a 12-h interval containing overnight sleep or daytime wake. Contrary to our prediction, both young adults and older adults exhibited sleep-dependent gains in visuo-motor adaptation. There was a correlation between performance improvement over sleep and percent of the night in non-REM stage 2 sleep. These results indicate that motor skill consolidation remains intact with increasing age although this relationship may be limited to specific forms of motor skill learning.

Keywords: Memory consolidation; Motor learning; NREM sleep; Sleep.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / physiology*
  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Aging / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Skills / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation / methods*
  • Polysomnography / methods
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Young Adult