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2015 Grants - Malkani
Auditory Stimulation of Delta Sleep and Memory in Mild Cognitive Impairment
Roneil Malkani, M.D.
2015 New Investigator Research Grant
Can a novel technology that enhances sleep quality be used to improve memory in older adults with mild cognitive decline?
An increasing number of studies indicate that sleep disorders have a significant impact on memory and other forms of cognition. Sleep loss and poor sleep quality at night may lead to reduced brain function during the day. One type of sleep that is most commonly reduced in older adults is “slow wave sleep” (or “delta sleep”), a form of deep sleep without rapid-eye movements. Research has shown that slow wave sleep — and the “slow wave electrical activity” that occurs in the brain during deep sleep — is important for normal memory function. Slow wave sleep declines during normal aging and even more so in people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a condition of subtle memory decline that often precedes Alzheimer’s disease. Thus, there is a need for interventions that can increase slow wave sleep and improve cognitive function in normal aging and in people with elevated Alzheimer’s risk.
Roneil Malkani, M.D., and colleagues have developed a novel method for boosting slow wave sleep. It involves using a “phase locked loop” system, in which study participants are hooked up to a computer that can monitor their brain’s electrical sleep waves. The computer then emits sounds that are timed to synchronize with the rhythm of the waves. This method of “auditory stimulation” has been shown to improve both slow wave sleep and memory in a small preliminary study of 5 older adults. For their current grant, Dr. Malkani and colleagues will conduct a larger study of older adults with mild cognitive impairment. They will determine whether this new technique can increase slow wave sleep by at least 10 percent; and whether such an increase can improve different forms of cognition, including memory and language skills.
The results of this research will provide new information on the link between sleep and memory function in people with MCI. If successful, the results of this effort could lead to a non-invasive, cost-effective, home-based method of improving cognitive health in people at risk of Alzheimer’s disease.