The relationship between sleep, emotion and aging

Problem Title

The relationship between sleep, emotion and aging

Scientific Title

The effect of valence on sleep-dependent processing of emotional memory and reactivity in older adults

Student: 
Kurt Schultz
Major(s): 
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
iCons Concentration: 
Biomedicine/Biosystems
iCons Class Year: 
Class of 2014
Executive Summary 

Research suggests aging may be accompanied by preferential processing of positive versus negative information. Sleep benefits emotional memories and has been shown to modulate emotional reactivity. However, whether sleep interacts with the "positivity effect" observed in older individuals remains unknown. The current project examined the effect of valence on sleep-dependent consolidation of emotional memory and reactivity in older adults.

Healthy older (50-80 yrs) adults viewed either positive and neutral pictures (Positive condition) or negative and neutral pictures (Negative condition) in either the morning (Wake groups) or evening (Sleep groups) and rated each image on indices of emotional reactivity. Twelve hours later, participants performed a recognition memory task and rated the images again. The Sleep groups underwent overnight polysomnography. In the Negative condition, sleep had no effect on memory recognition for either negative or neutral images. However, in the Positive condition, sleep benefited both positive and neutral memories, p<0.05. We expect a relationship between memory performance and rapid eye movement sleep measures in this group. Sleep did not affect emotional reactivity in either group. These findings suggest that sleep-dependent consolidation interacts with the positivity bias in older individuals, resulting in selective sleep-related processing of positive memories in this population.

Problem Keywords: 
aging
memory
sleep
Scientific Keywords: 
memory reconsolidation
polysomnography
sleep-dependent consolidation
valence