Background. The importance of sleep for memory consolidation has become a major focus of research. While it is known that abstaining alcohol-dependent patients often have sleep disorders and that there is some cognitive impairment during early abstention a possible interaction of disturbed sleep with overnight memory consolidation has not been addressed in a study as yet. Methods. Twenty-four alcohol-dependent patients with a short abstention period (mean 21.9 ± 7.6 days) were compared with 12 patients with an abstention period of several months (115.7 ± 43.8 days). Groups did not differ with respect to daily alcohol consumption before treatment, duration of alcohol dependence, and age. Before sleep all patients learned a list of semantically associated word pairs and a face name association task to a fixed criterion (at least 60% of correct recall) and they performed a mirror tracing task. After a polysomnographically registered night the patients were tested for retention of the learned declarative material by cued recall and had to perform the mirror tracing task again. Results. The groups did not differ with respect to sleep parameters or sleep-associated memory consolidation. Across both groups the duration of alcohol dependence correlated negatively with the amount of non-REM sleep and recall in the face name association task correlated negatively with daily alcohol consumption before abstention. Among the longer-term abstainers the duration of abstention correlated with the amount of slow wave sleep. Conclusions. Our data support the hypothesis that chronic and high alcohol consumption negatively affects sleep and declarative memory consolidation during the first months of abstention. Between an abstention period of a few weeks and of several months no change in sleep parameters and nightly memory consolidation could be demonstrated, however.
Strategische Forschungsbereiche und Zentren
- Forschungsschwerpunkt: Gehirn, Hormone, Verhalten - Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)