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The Influence of Sleep on the Consolidation of Positive Emotional Memories: Preliminary Evidence

Sleep, Stress, and Memory Laboratory, Department of Psychology, University of Notre Dame, 118 Haggar Hall, Notre Dame, IN 46556, USA

Special Issues: How does sleep facilitate recent memory consolidation?

Studies have not only shown that a period of sleep following learning offers greater benefits to later memory than a period of wakefulness, but also that sleep actively promotes those components of memories that are emotionally salient. However, sleep's role in emotional memory consolidation has largely been investigated with memories that are specifically negative in content, such as memory for negative images or texts, leaving open the question of whether sleep influences positive memories in a similar manner. The current study investigated the emotional memory trade-off effect for positive versus neutral information. Scenes in which a positive or neutral object was placed on a neutral background were encoded prior to a period of polysomnographically-monitored nocturnal sleep or daytime wakefulness. Recognition memory was tested for the objects and backgrounds separately following the delay using the Remember/Know paradigm. Compared to wake participants, those who slept during the delay had increased recollection memory performance for positive objects, but not the neutral components of the studied scenes. Further, familiarity of positive objects was negatively correlated with REM latency. These results provide preliminary evidence that sleep contributes to the selective processing of positive memories, and point toward a role for REM sleep in positive memory formation.
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