Sleep divergently affects cognitive and automatic emotional response in children

Publication date: August 2018
Source:Neuropsychologia, Volume 117
Author(s): Elaina Bolinger, Jan Born, Katharina Zinke
Sleep enhances memory for emotional experiences, but its influence on the emotional response associated with memories is elusive. Here, we compared the influence of nocturnal sleep on memory for negative and neutral pictures and the associated emotional response in 8–11-year-old children, i.e., an age group with heightened levels of emotional memory-related sleep features. During all sessions, emotional responses as measured by subjective ratings, the late positive potential of the EEG (LPP) and heart rate deceleration (HRD) were recorded. Sleep enhanced picture memory. Compared to dynamics across wakefulness, sleep decreased the emotional response in ratings and the LPP, while increasing the emotional response in HRD. We conclude that sleep consolidates immediate emotional meaning by enhancing more automatic emotional responses while concurrently promoting top-down control of emotional responses, perhaps through strengthening respective neocortical representations.