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P8 Both good sleep quality and better psychological health predict reduced long-term forgetting of verbal episodic memory
  1. Mark Avery,
  2. Colin Lever and
  3. Holger Wiese
  1. Durham University, Carthorpe


Introduction Good sleep is thought to facilitate memory consolidation, yet its potential role in long-term memory (e.g., 2 weeks after the learning event) is largely unexplored. We examined if good sleep would predict lower long-term forgetting by modifying a standard neuropsychological test of verbal episodic memory (VEM) to include re-test without notice after two weeks.

Methods 145 cognitively-normal subjects (M=55.3 years, SD=17.1 years) undertook two separate phases of memory-domain testing two weeks apart. Subjects completed the Pittsburgh Sleep Questionnaire (PSQ), and also wore research-grade accelerometers which measured physical activity and sleep in the two-week period between testing phases. Subjects were divided between younger (N=52, M=36 years) and older (N=93, M=66 years) and also between PSQ-determined good and poor sleepers.

Results Factor analysis organised 12 measures from 7 memory tests into four memory-domain factors. Good self-reported sleep predicted better performance in the memory-domain factor for VEM long-term forgetting, but not in the other three memory factors (standard neuropsychological measures of VEM short-term recall, face memory and working memory), which were instead predicted (negatively) by age. The double dissociation between VEM Short-term recall and VEM long-term forgetting is illustrated in the figure 1. Accelerometry-based sleep measures were not associated with memory. Exploratory analysis of psychological health scores (see table 1) showed that better scores in a factor derived from the SF36 Short Form Health Survey also helped to predict lower long-term forgetting.

Abstract P8 Figure 1

There is a double dissociation in VEM short term recall and VEM long term

Abstract P8 Table 1

Comparisons between subjects in psychological health scores & associations with VEM long term forgetting

Discussion Good PSQ-rated sleep quality and better psychological health may both help to improve performance in a new cognitive measure of long-term forgetting in younger and older persons. The finding suggests that PSQ-rated sleep quality may be a biomarker for long-term memory consolidation processes. To our knowledge, this is the first indication that sleep quality may determine long-term (2-week) consolidation of a single learning episode.

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