The slow waves (SW) of non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep reflect neocortical components of network activity during sleep-dependent information processing; their disruption may therefore impair memory consolidation. Here, we quantify sleep-dependent consolidation of motor sequence memory, alongside sleep EEG-derived SW properties and synchronisation, and SW–spindle coupling in 21 patients suffering from schizophrenia and 19 healthy volunteers. Impaired memory consolidation in patients culminated in an overnight improvement in motor sequence task performance of only 1.6%, compared with 15% in controls. During sleep after learning, SW amplitudes and densities were comparable in healthy controls and patients. However, healthy controls showed a significant 45% increase in frontal-to-occipital SW coherence during sleep after motor learning in comparison with a baseline night (baseline: 0.22 ± 0.05, learning: 0.32 ± 0.05); patient EEG failed to show this increase (baseline: 0.22 ± 0.04, learning: 0.19 ± 0.04). The experience-dependent nesting of spindles in SW was similarly disrupted in patients: frontal-to-occipital SW–spindle phase-amplitude coupling (PAC) significantly increased after learning in healthy controls (modulation index baseline: 0.17 ± 0.02, learning: 0.22 ± 0.02) but not in patients (baseline: 0.13 ± 0.02, learning: 0.14 ± 0.02). Partial least-squares regression modelling of coherence and PAC data from all electrode pairs confirmed distributed SW coherence and SW–spindle coordination as superior predictors of overnight memory consolidation in healthy controls but not in patients. Quantifying the full repertoire of NREM EEG oscillations and their long-range covariance therefore presents learning-dependent changes in distributed SW and spindle coordination as fingerprints of impaired cognition in schizophrenia.
- learning and memory