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Memory effects of sleep, emotional valence, arousal and novelty in children

Research group Van Someren
Publication year 2017
Published in Journal of Sleep Research
Authors Marije C M Vermeulen, Kristiaan B van der Heijden, Jeroen S Benjamins, Hanna Swaab, Eus Van Someren

Effectiveness of memory consolidation is determined by multiple factors, including sleep after learning, emotional valence, arousal and novelty. Few studies investigated how the effect of sleep compares with (and interacts with) these other factors, of which virtually none are in children. The present study did so by repeated assessment of declarative memory in 386 children (45% boys) aged 9-11 years through an online word-pair task. Children were randomly assigned to either a morning or evening learning session of 30 unrelated word-pairs with positive, neutral or negative valenced cues and neutral targets. After immediately assessing baseline recognition, delayed recognition was recorded either 12 or 24 h later, resulting in four different assessment schedules. One week later, the procedure was repeated with exactly the same word-pairs to evaluate whether effects differed for relearning versus original novel learning. Mixed-effect logistic regression models were used to evaluate how the probability of correct recognition was affected by sleep, valence, arousal, novelty and their interactions. Both immediate and delayed recognition were worse for pairs with negatively valenced or less arousing cue words. Relearning improved immediate and delayed word-pair recognition. In contrast to these effects, sleep did not affect recognition, nor did sleep moderate the effects of arousal, valence and novelty. The findings suggest a robust inclination of children to specifically forget the pairing of words to negatively valenced cue words. In agreement with a recent meta-analysis, children seem to depend less on sleep for the consolidation of information than has been reported for adults, irrespective of the emotional valence, arousal and novelty of word-pairs.

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