Sleep spindles and intelligence: evidence for a sexual dimorphism

Péter P Ujma, Boris Nikolai Konrad, Lisa Genzel, Annabell Bleifuss, Péter Simor, Adrián Pótári, János Körmendi, Ferenc Gombos, Axel Steiger, Róbert Bódizs, Martin Dresler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Sleep spindles are thalamocortical oscillations in nonrapid eye movement sleep, which play an important role in sleep-related neuroplasticity and offline information processing. Sleep spindle features are stable within and vary between individuals, with, for example, females having a higher number of spindles and higher spindle density than males. Sleep spindles have been associated with learning potential and intelligence; however, the details of this relationship have not been fully clarified yet. In a sample of 160 adult human subjects with a broad IQ range, we investigated the relationship between sleep spindle parameters and intelligence. In females, we found a positive age-corrected association between intelligence and fast sleep spindle amplitude in central and frontal derivations and a positive association between intelligence and slow sleep spindle duration in all except one derivation. In males, a negative association between intelligence and fast spindle density in posterior regions was found. Effects were continuous over the entire IQ range. Our results demonstrate that, although there is an association between sleep spindle parameters and intellectual performance, these effects are more modest than previously reported and mainly present in females. This supports the view that intelligence does not rely on a single neural framework, and stronger neural connectivity manifesting in increased thalamocortical oscillations in sleep is one particular mechanism typical for females but not males.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)16358-68
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number49
Publication statusPublished - 3 Dec 2014

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aging
  • Brain Waves
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intelligence
  • Intelligence Tests
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Sleep Stages
  • Young Adult


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