Associations between sleep and verbal memory in subjective cognitive decline: A role for semantic clustering

Jessica E. Manousakis, Christian Nicholas, Anna J. Scovelle, Sharon L. Naismith, Clare Anderson

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4 Citations (Scopus)


Age-related reductions in slow wave activity (SWA) and increased fragmentation during sleep play a key role in memory impairment. As the prefrontal cortex is necessary for the control processes relevant to memory encoding, including utilisation of internal heuristics such as semantic clustering, and is preferentially vulnerable to sleep disturbance, our study examined how SWA and sleep fragmentation relates to memory performance in individuals with Subjective Cognitive Decline (SCD). Thirty older adults with SCD (Mean Age = 69.34, SD = 5.34) completed a neurocognitive test battery, including the California Verbal Learning Test, which was used to assess semantic clustering. One week later, participants were admitted to the laboratory for a two night visit. SWA and sleep fragmentation were captured using sleep polysomnography. Next-day memory performance was tested using the Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test. Poorer sleep (reduced SWA; increased arousals) was associated with reduced semantic clustering, which mediated impairment on verbal memory and learning tests conducted both the day after sleep was recorded (for both SWA and arousals), and a week prior (for arousals only). We demonstrate semantic clustering mediated the well described associations between sleep and verbal memory. As these strategies are a component of cognitive training interventions, future research may examine the role of simultaneous sleep interventions for improving cognitive training outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number107086
Number of pages8
JournalNeurobiology of Learning and Memory
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2019


  • Circadian timing
  • Cognition
  • Declarative memory
  • Mnemonic tools
  • Sleep fragmentation
  • Slow wave sleep
  • Strategy use

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