Effects of Sleep and Age on Prospective Memory Consolidation: A Walk in a Virtual Museum


Prospective memory (PM) refers to our ability to perform actions at the appropriate moment, either when a predetermined event occurs (event-based, EB) or after a predetermined amount of time (time-based, TB). Sleep favors the consolidation of both EB and TB intentions, but whether this benefit is preserved during ageing is still subject to debate. PM was assessed in 28 young and 27 older healthy volunteers using a virtual environment. Participants had to learn and execute intentions after intervals filled with either daytime wakefulness or nighttime sleep. Intentions consisted of four TB, four EB with a strong link between the cue triggering retrieval and the action to be performed (EB-link) and four with no link (EB-nolink). PM was not affected by age, whatever the type of intention and the nature of the retention interval. While sleep reinforced all types of intentions in young participants, this benefit was only observed for TB and EB-link intentions in older adults. Sleep also reinforced the intrinsic PM components in both groups. Thus, when assessed using complex realistic situations, PM is not impaired in ageing. Results are discussed in the light of memory schema theory and the possible impact of cognitive reserve on sleep and memory.

Clocks & Sleep