Age-related changes in sleep EEG are attenuated in highly intelligent individuals

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Impaired sleep is a frequent complaint in ageing and a risk factor for many diseases. Non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep EEG delta power reflects neural plasticity and, in line with age-related cognitive decline, decreases with age. Individuals with higher general intelligence are less affected by age-related cognitive decline or other disorders and have longer lifespans. We investigated the correlation between age and EEG power in 159 healthy human subjects (age range: 17–69 years), and compared an average (IQ<120; N=87) with a high (IQ≥120; N=72) intelligence subgroup. We found less age-related decrease in all-night relative NREM sleep EEG delta power in the high intelligence subgroup. Our results suggest that highly intelligent individuals are less affected by the sleep-related effects of biological ageing, and therefore potentially less at risk for age-related cognitive deficits and other diseases.

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