Sleep and Emotional Memory Processing

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Sleep and Emotional Memory Processing

Keywords ● Sleep ● REM sleep ● Emotion ● Affect ● Learning ● Memory Depression ● PTSD

The ability of the human brain to generate, regulate, and be guided by emotions represents a fundamental process governing not only our personal lives but also our mental health and societal structure. The recent emergence of cognitive neuroscience has ushered in a new era of research connecting affective behavior with human brain function and has provided a systems-level view of emotional information processing, translationally bridging animal models of affective regulation and relevant clinical disorders.1,2

Independent of this research area, a recent resurgence has also taken place within the basic sciences, focusing on the functional effect of sleep on neurocognitive processes.3 However, surprisingly less research attention has been given to the interaction between sleep and affective brain function, considering the remarkable overlap between the known physiology of sleep, especially rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, and the associated neurochemistry and network anatomy that modulate emotions, as well as the prominent co-occurrence of abnormal sleep (including REM sleep) in almost all affective psychiatric and mood disorders.

Despite the relative historical paucity of research, recent work has begun to describe a consistent and clarifying role of sleep in the selective modulation of emotional memory and affective regulation. This review provides a synthesis of these findings, describing an intimate relationship between sleep, emotional brain function, and clinical mood disorders and offers a tentative first theoretical framework that may account for these observed interactions.


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