Sleep slow-wave activity reveals developmental changes in experience-dependent plasticity

Ines Wilhelm, Salomé Kurth, Maya Ringli, Anne Laure Mouthon, Andreas Buchmann, Anja Geiger, Oskar G. Jenni, Reto Huber*

*Corresponding author for this work
56 Citations (Scopus)


Experience-dependent plasticity, the ability of the brain to constantly adapt to an ever-changing environment, has been suggested to be highest during childhood and to decline thereafter. However, empirical evidence for this is rather scarce. Slow-wave activity (SWA; EEG activity of 1– 4.5 Hz) during deep sleep can be used as a marker of experience-dependent plasticity. For example, performing a visuomotor adaptation task in adults increased SWA during subsequent sleep over a locally restricted region of the right parietal cortex, which is known to be involved in visuomotor adaptation. Here, we investigated whether local experience-dependent changes in SWA vary as a function of brain maturation. Three age groups (children, adolescents, and adults) participated in a high-density EEG study with two conditions (baseline and adaptation) of a visuomotor learning task. Compared with the baseline condition, sleepSWAwas increased after visuomotor adaptation in a cluster of eight electrodes over the right parietal cortex. The local boost in SWA was highest in children. Baseline SWA in the parietal cluster and right parietal gray matter volume, which both indicate region-specific maturation, were significantly correlated with the local increase in SWA. Our findings indicate that processes of brain maturation favor experience-dependent plasticity and determine how sensitive a specific brain region is for learning experiences. Moreover, our data confirm thatSWAis a highly sensitive tool to map maturational differences in experience-dependent plasticity.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number37
Pages (from-to)12568-12575
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 10.09.2014

Research Areas and Centers

  • Academic Focus: Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)


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