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REM sleep enhances emotional memories study

Margaret Jack  By Margaret Jack   |   Posted in Sleep Research   |   Last updated: Thursday 20th December 2012

A recently published study found that people who experience rapid eye movement (REM) sleep shortly after a negative incident have superior memory for the emotional experience compared to people whose sleep was delayed for at least 16 hours.

The study which has been published in the Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience was conducted at the University Of Notre Dame. The test subjects were split into two groups – sleep group and wake group. The sleep group slept soon after the emotional event and the wake group had to delay their sleep for 16 hours. The sleep group was found to have superior memory for emotional objects compared to the wake group. However increased memory for the emotional event corresponded with a reduced memory for the neutral background of the scene.

The results suggest that REM sleep helps preserve emotional memory as it is seen to be more important and perhaps beneficial to survival. It shows that the sleeping brain doesn't just combine all recent information but selects only the most emotional parts of an experience.

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