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Physiol Behav. 2001 Sep 1-15;74(1-2):71-6.

The mesograde amnesia of sleep may be attenuated in subjects with primary insomnia.

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  • 1Sleep Research Laboratory, Department of Psychiatry, University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, NY 14642, USA.


In this study, we pilot tested one of the more controversial components of the Neurocognitive Model of Insomnia; the proposition that subjects with chronic primary insomnia are better able to recall and/or recognize information from sleep onset intervals than good sleeper controls. Nine subjects participated in this pilot study, five of whom had a complaint of insomnia. The remaining four subjects were self-reported good sleeper controls. Subjects were matched for age, sex, and body mass. All subjects spent two nights in the sleep laboratory. The first night served as an adaptation night. The second night served as the experimental night during which a forced awakening and memory task was deployed. In this procedure, subjects were played single-word stimuli across four time periods: at natural sleep onset (Trial 1) and at the sleep onset transitions following three forced awakenings (Trials 2-4 from Stage 2 sleep). All subjects were awakened after about 6 h had elapsed from lights out and were tested for free recall and recognition memory for the word stimuli. The insomnia subjects, tended to identify more of the word stimuli on the recognition task (average for the four trials) and recognized significantly more of the words that were presented at sleep onset proper (Trial 1). This finding suggests that the natural mesograde amnesia of sleep may be attenuated in subjects with insomnia.

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