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Cortex. 2013 Sep;49(8):2221-8. doi: 10.1016/j.cortex.2012.11.014. Epub 2012 Dec 5.

Sleep unbinds memories from their emotional context.

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UR2NF, Neuropsychology and Functional Neuroimaging Research Unit at CRCN - Centre de Recherches en Cognition et Neurosciences and UNI - ULB Neurosciences Institute, Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB), Brussels, Belgium.


Consistent evidence nowadays indicates that sleep protects declarative memory from lexical interference. However, little is known about its effect against emotional interference. In a within-subject counterbalanced design, participants learned a list of word pairs after a mood induction procedure (MIP), then slept or stayed awake during the post-learning night. After two recovery nights, half of the list was recalled after a similar mood induction than at the encoding session (no interference condition) and the other half after a different mood induction (interference condition). Amongst participants for whom the MIP was effective, an emotional interference effect appeared only in the sleep-deprived condition, with a lower recall of word pairs subjected to contextual interference than of the other pairs. These findings support the hypothesis of a decoupling between memories and their "affective blanket" during post-learning sleep, protecting recent memories against emotional contextual interference.


Emotion; Interference; Memory consolidation; Sleep deprivation

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