Neuroscience in the Wild | Workshop 2019 (4 of 6) | Audrey Duarte | How measuring the sleeping brain at home can help us understand aging and Alzheimer’s disease
Psychology, Georgia Institute of Technology
How measuring the sleeping brain at home can help us understand aging and Alzheimer’s disease
One of the most common and arguably most distressing cognitive declines in aging, in large part because it is also an early sign of Alzheimer’s disease, is in episodic memory. As people age, they report more everyday difficulties in, for example, remembering someone’s name or the location of a placed item. More serious memory failures include forgetting that one has already taken her medication that day. Although there is a general pattern of memory decline and related changes in underlying brain structure and function, there are substantial inter-individual differences in memory decline with some people aging better than others. It is of great importance to understand the factors, particularly malleable ones, that contribute to these individual differences. One such factor is sleep. Sleep stabilizes episodic memories, protecting them from decay, and sleep quality declines with age. We are exploring how a person’s sleep quality and related neural architecture contribute to memory functioning. Some aspects of sleep may serve as non-invasive biomarkers of Alzheimer’s disease, years before diagnosis. I will present results showing inter-individual variability in both neural activity and memory performance across age and discuss the role of sleep in mediating this variability across the adult lifespan. Our planned and future work will directly assess the impact of sleep interventions that might facilitate memory ability and stave off cognitive decline.