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