Sleep is essential for brain health, and neurodegenerative diseases are associated with substantial sleep disruptions. Disrupted sleep is now thought to not just be a symptom of neurodegeneration, but potentially to also contribute to the onset of the disease. Notably, Alzheimer?s disease pathology is associated with loss of EEG slow waves during non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep. Sleep is thought to be important for clearance of proteins such as amyloid-beta and tau from the brain into the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), and the human brain exhibits waves of CSF flow during NREM sleep, suggesting that CSF flow during sleep may play a role in its effects on brain health. This proposal aims to understand the link between neural slow waves during sleep and CSF flow in healthy aging and in individuals at risk for Alzheimer?s disease. We hypothesize that neural activity can induce CSF flow through its effects on cerebral blood volume. We in turn predict that loss of neural slow waves during sleep in the aging brain may lead to loss of sleep-dependent CSF flow, and that this decline is associated with Alzheimer?s disease genetic risk factors. To test our hypothesis, we will use multimodal imaging to simultaneously measure neural activity, hemodynamics, and CSF flow. We will test the link between neural activity and CSF flow, and will identify whether the decline in sleep slow waves in older adults is associated with less CSF flow. We will further examine whether this process is more severely disrupted in healthy older adults with genetic risk for Alzheimer?s disease. Together, these studies will establish a biological mechanism for how altered sleep in aging leads to altered fluid flow dynamics, and this knowledge will form an essential foundation for the development of future biomarkers and interventions to evaluate and modulate CSF flow in the aging brain.

Public Health Relevance

Sleep is essential for healthy brain function, and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer?s disease are associated with disrupted sleep. This project will use new imaging approaches to identify how neural activity, blood flow, and cerebrospinal fluid flow are jointly regulated in the brain during sleep and wakefulness. We will identify how sleep-dependent brain physiology changes in healthy aging and in individuals with genetic risk for Alzheimer?s disease, to advance our understanding of the biological mechanisms underlying the link between sleep and neurodegeneration.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Aging (NIA)
Research Project (R01)
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Clinical Neuroscience and Neurodegeneration Study Section (CNN)
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Mackiewicz, Miroslaw
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Boston University
United States
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