The impact of diurnal sleep on the consolidation of a complex gross motor adaptation task

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Diurnal sleep effects on consolidation of a complex, ecological valid gross motor adaptation task were examined using a bicycle with an inverse steering device. We tested 24 male subjects aged between 20 and 29 years using a between-subjects design. Participants were trained to adapt to the inverse steering bicycle during 45 min. Performance was tested before (TEST1) and after (TEST2) training, as well as after a 2 h retention interval (TEST3). During retention, participants either slept or remained awake. To assess gross motor performance, subjects had to ride the inverse steering bicycle 3 × 30 m straight-line and 3 × 30 m through a slalom. Beyond riding time, we sophisticatedly measured performance accuracy (standard deviation of steering angle) in both conditions using a rotatory potentiometer. A significant decrease of accuracy during straight-line riding after nap and wakefulness was shown. Accuracy during slalom riding remained stable after wakefulness but was reduced after sleep. We found that the duration of rapid eye movement sleep as well as sleep spindle activity are negatively related with gross motor performance changes over sleep. Together these findings suggest that the consolidation of adaptation to a new steering device does not benefit from a 2 h midday nap. We speculate that in case of strongly overlearned motor patterns such as normal cycling, diurnal sleep spindles and rapid eye movement sleep might even help to protect everyday needed skills, and to rapidly forget newly acquired, interfering and irrelevant material.

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