April 12, 2021

Slow oscillation-spindle coupling strength predicts real-life gross-motor learning in adolescents and adults

Precise temporal coordination between slow oscillations (SO) and sleep spindles indexes declarative memory network development. SO-spindle interplay is thought to time subcortical-cortical network communication. However, it is currently unclear whether these findings in the declarative memory domain also apply in the motor memory domain. Here, we compared early adolescents and young adults learning juggling, a real-life gross-motor task. We found that improved task proficiency after sleep lead to an attenuation of the learning curve, suggesting a dynamic juggling learning process. We employed individualized cross-frequency coupling analyses to alleviate inter and intra-group variability of oscillatory features. Complementary to our earlier findings, we identified a more precise SO-spindle coupling in adults compared to early adolescents. Importantly, coupling precision over motor areas predicted overnight changes in task proficiency and learning curve, indicating that SO-spindle coupling strength is sensitive to the dynamic motor learning process. Our results provide first evidence that regionally specific precisely coupled sleep oscillations support gross-motor learning in humans.

 bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience

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