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Early interventions to enhance sleep spindles and optimise memory consolidation in older adults: A high-density EEG sleep study


This study will test exciting new treatment approaches to improve cognition in older people. It involves a clinical trial to deliver an early pharmacological intervention to enhance sleep spindle electroencephalogram (EEG, brain activity) features to optimise sleep quality and improve memory.


Dr Angela D’Rozario.

Research location

School of Psychology

Program type



Sleep plays a critical role in learning, memory and brain plasticity. Two key components of sleep physiology which are intimately linked with memory consolidation include sleep spindles and slow wave activity (SWA, 0.5 - 4.0 Hz) in non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep. These distinct electroencephalogram (EEG) features are important for sleep maintenance and neuronal plasticity, and age-related reductions in sleep spindles and SWA may explain cognitive decline in older age. Accumulating evidence has shown sleep spindles increase in number and duration in NREM sleep following new learning, and are correlated with improved hippocampal-dependent declarative memory as well as implicit procedural memory. Sleep spindles significantly decrease with normal ageing and, in patients with Alzheimer’s disease sleep spindle deficits are related to episodic memory impairment. Experimentally boosting sleep spindles and slow waves during sleep results in improved memory and cognition in healthy young individuals. Therapeutic interventions to enhance sleep oscillations may improve memory in healthy older people and slow cognitive decline in those considered to be at-risk for dementia. This project involves a randomized placebo-controlled clinical trial to pharmacologically boost sleep EEG features to optimise sleep-dependent memory consolidation. This study will use state of the art 256 channel high-density EEG for sleep investigations, neuroimaging, and cognitive testing.

Additional information

Additional Supervisors Professor Sharon Naismith and Professor Ron Grunstein

This data collection for this study will be conducted at the Centre for Sleep and Chronobiology, Woolcock Institute of Medical Research, Glebe.  

HDR Inherent Requirements

In addition to the academic requirements set out in the Science Postgraduate Handbook, you may be required to satisfy a number of inherent requirements to complete this degree. Example of inherent requirement may include:

- Confidential disclosure and registration of a disability that may hinder your performance in your degree;
- Confidential disclosure of a pre-existing or current medical condition that may hinder your performance in your degree (e.g. heart disease, pace-maker, significant immune suppression, diabetes, vertigo, etc.);
- Ability to perform independently and/or with minimal supervision;
- Ability to undertake certain physical tasks (e.g. heavy lifting);
- Ability to undertake observatory, sensory and communication tasks;
- Ability to spend time at remote sites (e.g. One Tree Island, Narrabri and Camden);
- Ability to work in confined spaces or at heights;
- Ability to operate heavy machinery (e.g. farming equipment);
- Hold or acquire an Australian driver’s licence;
- Hold a current scuba diving license;
- Hold a current Working with Children Check;
- Meet initial and ongoing immunisation requirements (e.g. Q-Fever, Vaccinia virus, Hepatitis, etc.)

You must consult with your nominated supervisor regarding any identified inherent requirements before completing your application.

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Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is 2531

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