Sleep spindle activity correlates with implicit statistical learning consolidation in untreated obstructive sleep apnea patients

David Stevens, Celeste W.Y. Leong, Helena Cheung, Joanne Arciuli, Andrew Vakulin, Jong Won Kim, Hannah D. Openshaw, Caroline D. Rae, Keith K.H. Wong, Derk Jan Dijk, Josiah Wei Siong Leow, Bandana Saini, Ronald R. Grunstein, Angela L. D'Rozario

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective/Background: The aim of this study was to examine the relationship between overnight consolidation of implicit statistical learning with spindle frequency EEG activity and slow frequency delta power during non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep in obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Patients/Methods: Forty-seven OSA participants completed the experiment. Prior to sleep, participants performed a reaction time cover task containing hidden patterns of pictures, about which participants were not informed. After the familiarisation phase, participants underwent overnight polysomnography. 24 h after the familiarisation phase, participants performed a test phase to assess their learning of the hidden patterns, expressed as a percentage of the number of correctly identified patterns. Spindle frequency activity (SFA) and delta power (0.5–4.5 Hz), were quantified from NREM electroencephalography. Associations between statistical learning and sleep EEG, and OSA severity measures were examined. Results: SFA in NREM sleep in frontal and central brain regions was positively correlated with statistical learning scores (r = 0.41 to 0.31, p = 0.006 to 0.044). In multiple regression, greater SFA and longer sleep onset latency were significant predictors of better statistical learning performance. Delta power and OSA severity were not significantly correlated with statistical learning. Conclusions: These findings suggest spindle activity may serve as a marker of statistical learning capability in OSA. This work provides novel insight into how altered sleep physiology relates to consolidation of implicitly learnt information in patients with moderate to severe OSA.

Original languageEnglish
JournalSleep Medicine
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 9 Feb 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Implicit learning
  • Memory consolidation
  • Power spectral analysis
  • Quantitative electroencephalography
  • Sleep-disordered breathing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)

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