Sleep-dependent enhancement of emotional memory in early childhood

Sci Rep. 2018 Aug 22;8(1):12609. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-30980-y.


Naps in early childhood support declarative memory consolidation. However, emotional memories are unique in the neural basis of encoding as well as the sleep physiology underlying consolidation. Specifically, while consolidation of declarative memories has been associated with slow wave sleep, a prevailing theory suggests that REM sleep is necessary for consolidation of memories with emotional valence. Thus, we presented children (34-64 months) with faces paired with mean or nice descriptions. There were no significant main effects of emotional valence on recognition memory. Change in memory accuracy also did not differ when probed after a nap compared to the change in memory accuracy after an interval awake. However, when memory was probed again following overnight sleep, the change in memory accuracy was greater if the child napped the previous day. Greater nap slow wave activity was associated with greater memory decay during the nap. Yet nap slow wave activity also predicted greater overnight improvement in memory. These results suggest that sleep bouts can interact to benefit memory in early childhood.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology
  • Memory Consolidation / physiology*
  • Sleep / physiology*
  • Sleep Stages / physiology
  • Sleep, REM / physiology
  • Time Factors
  • Wakefulness / physiology