Consolidation of vocabulary is associated with sleep in typically developing children, but not in children with dyslexia

Faye Rebecca Helen Smith, Mark Gareth Gaskell, Anna Weighall, Meesha Warmington, Alexander McGregor Reid, Lisa-Marie Henderson

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Sleep is known to play an active role in consolidating new vocabulary in adults; however, the mechanisms by which sleep promotes vocabulary consolidation in childhood are less well understood. Furthermore, there has been no investigation into whether previously reported differences in sleep architecture might account for variability in vocabulary consolidation in children with dyslexia. Twenty-three children with dyslexia and 29 age-matched typically developing peers were exposed to 16 novel spoken words. Typically developing children showed overnight improvements in novel word recall; the size of the improvement correlated positively with slow wave activity, similar to previous findings with adults. Children with dyslexia showed poorer recall of the novel words overall, but nevertheless showed overnight improvements similar to age-matched peers. However, comparisons with younger children matched on initial levels of novel word recall pointed to reduced consolidation in dyslexics after 1 week. Crucially, there were no significant correlations between overnight consolidation and sleep parameters in the dyslexic group. This suggests a reduced role of sleep in vocabulary consolidation in dyslexia, possibly as a consequence of lower levels of learning prior to sleep, and highlights how models of sleep-associated memory consolidation can be usefully informed by data from typical and atypical development.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12639
JournalDevelopmental Science
Issue number5
Early online date11 Dec 2017
Publication statusPublished - 29 Aug 2018

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