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19 August 2008

Sleep Selectively Preserves Emotional Memories

A study has offered new insights into the specific components of emotional memories, and suggested that sleep plays a key role in determining what you remember and what you forget.

The findings show that a period of slumber helps the brain to selectively preserve and enhance the aspects of a memory with the greatest emotional resonance, while diminishing the memory's neutral background details.

Study participants were shown scenes that depicted either neutral subjects on a neutral background or negatively arousing subjects on a neutral background. One group underwent memory testing after 12 hours spent awake during the daytime; a second group was tested after 12 nighttime hours, including their normal period of nighttime sleep. A third baseline group was tested 30 minutes after viewing the images, in either the morning or evening.

Among the individuals who were tested after a period of sleep, memory recall for emotionally resonant objects was preserved in particularly great detail.


* Science Blog August 14, 2008

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