Effect of Total Sleep Deprivation on Word Recognition of Previously Studied Words with Different Emotional Valence

Primary author: Amanda Hudson
Co-author(s): Paul Whitney; John Hinson; Devon Hansen; Hans Van Dongen; Kimberly Honn
Faculty sponsor: Kimberly Honn

Primary college/unit: Arts and Sciences
Campus: Spokane


Stimuli with an emotional valence tend to produce better recognition from memory than neutral stimuli. Sleep loss is believed to increase reactivity to negative stimuli, compared to positive stimuli, which may comparatively enhance subsequent recognition from memory for negative stimuli. We investigated the impact of total sleep deprivation (TSD) on recognition accuracy for words with different emotional valence using the Affective Item Source Memory Task (AISM).

Fourteen adults (ages 21-39; 7 females) completed a 4-day/3-night laboratory study with a baseline sleep opportunity, 39h acute TSD, and recovery sleep. The AISM was administered at 16:30 during baseline and after 34h TSD. During a study phase, participants heard a list, twice, of positive, negative, and neutral words spoken with a male or female voice. During an immediately subsequent recognition phase, participants heard and judged whether words were previously presented (item memory). For words judged to have been presented previously, participants indicated whether those were presented by a female or male speaker (source memory).

We found session (p<0.001) and valence (p<0.001) effects on item memory, but no interaction. At baseline, accuracy was higher for neutral and positive words than negative words. During TSD, accuracy declined for all valences as expected. However, there was no comparatively greater impact on item or source memory for negative words nor any differential effect of TSD for different valences. Whether our results would hold with longer time intervals between task phases or an intervening sleep period remains to be determined. This research was supported by Jazz Pharmaceuticals.