Autonomic central coupling during daytime sleep differs between older and younger people

Pin Chun Chen, Katharine C. Simon, Negin Sattari, Lauren N. Whitehurst, Sara C. Mednick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Decreased functioning in the elderly is mirrored by independent changes in central and autonomic nervous systems. Additionally, recent work suggests that the coupling of these systems may also serve an important role. In young adults, Autonomic and Central Events (ACEs), measured in the temporal coincidence of heart rate bursts (HRBs) and increased slow-wave-activity (SWA, 0.5–1 Hz) and sigma activity (12–15 Hz), followed by parasympathetic surge (RRHF) during non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep, predicted cognitive improvements. However, ACEs have not been examined in the elderly. Thus, the current study compared ACEs during wake and daytime sleep in older and younger adults and examined associations with working memory improvement before and after a nap. Compared to youngers, older adults showed lower amplitude of ACEs during NREM sleep, but not during wake. Furthermore, while younger adults demonstrated a parasympathetic surge after HRBs, older adults showed an earlier rise and longer maintenance of the RRHF. Taken together, our results demonstrate that autonomic-central coupling declines with age. Pathological aging implicates independent roles for decreased autonomic and central nervous system functioning, the current findings suggest that the coupling of these systems may also deserve attention.

Original languageEnglish
Article number107646
JournalNeurobiology of Learning and Memory
StatePublished - Sep 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors


  • Aging
  • Autonomic-central events
  • Nap
  • Sleep
  • Temporal coupling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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