The study included 15 older adults and 18 younger adults. Walker and his colleagues found that in the older adults age-related medial prefrontal cortex atrophy was linked with reduced slow-wave sleep, which then mediated the impairment of overnight sleep-dependent memory retention. Moreover, this memory impairment was linked with reduced task-related hippocampal-prefrontal cortex functional connectivity.
"This important study demonstrates that disrupted slow-wave sleep, potentially mediated by structural brain atrophy, contributes to impaired consolidation of episodic memory," Brent Forester, M.D., a Harvard Medical School psychiatrist and chair of the APA Council on Geriatric Psychiatry, said during an interview with Psychiatric News.
More information about sleep disorders in older adults and how to treat them can be found in the American Psychiatric Publishing book Clinical Manual for Evaluation and Treatment of Sleep Disorders. Also see a review in Psychiatric News.