STUDY OBJECTIVES: As slow-wave activity (SWA) is critical for cognition, SWA-enhancing technologies provide an exciting opportunity to improve cognitive function. We focus on improving cognitive function beyond sleep-dependent memory consolidation, using an automated device, and in middle-aged adults, who have depleted SWA yet a critical need for maximal cognitive capacity in work environments. METHODS: Twenty-four healthy adult males aged 35-48 years participated in a randomized, double-blind, cross-over study. Participants wore an automated acoustic stimulation device that monitored real-time sleep EEG. Following an adaptation night, participants were exposed to either acoustic tones delivered on the up phase of the slow-wave (STIM) or inaudible "tones" during equivalent periods of stimulation (SHAM). An executive function test battery was administered after the experimental night. RESULTS: STIM resulted in an increase in delta (0.5-4 Hz) activity across the full-night spectra, with enhancement being maximal at 1 Hz. SWA was higher for STIM relative to SHAM. Although no group differences were observed in any cognitive outcomes, due to large individual differences in SWA enhancement, higher SWA responders showed significantly improved verbal fluency and working memory compared with nonresponders. Significant positive associations were found between SWA enhancement and improvement in these executive function outcomes. CONCLUSIONS: Our study suggests that (1) an automated acoustic device enhances SWA; (2) SWA enhancement improves executive function; (3) SWA enhancement in middle-aged men may be an important therapeutic target for enhancing cognitive function; and (4) there is a need to examine interindividual responses to acoustic stimulation and its effect on subsequent cognitive function. CLINICAL TRIAL REGISTRATION: This study has been registered with the Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry. "The efficacy of acoustic tones in slow-wave sleep enhancement and cognitive function in healthy adult males". https://www.anzctr.org.au/Trial/Registration/TrialReview.aspx?id=371548&isReview=true. REGISTRATION: ACTRN12617000399392.
- acoustic stimulation
- slow-wave sleep enhancement