The reason sleep deprivation alters emotional reactivity

Losing Neutrality: The Neural Basis of Impaired Emotional Control without Sleep.
Simon EB, Oren N, Sharon H, Kirschner A, Goldway N, Okon-Singer H, Tauman R, Deweese MM, Keil A, Hendler T.
Journal of Neurosci. 2015 Sep 23;35(38):13194-205. 

Sleep deprivation has been shown recently to alter emotional processing possibly associated with reduced frontal regulation. Such impairments can ultimately fail adaptive attempts to regulate emotional processing (also known as cognitive control of emotion), although this hypothesis has not been examined directly. Therefore, we explored the influence of sleep deprivation on the human brain using two different cognitive-emotional tasks, recorded using fMRI and EEG. Both tasks involved irrelevant emotional and neutral distractors presented during a competing cognitive challenge, thus creating a continuous demand for regulating emotional processing. Results reveal that, although participants showed enhanced limbic and electrophysiological reactions to emotional distractors regardless of their sleep state, they were specifically unable to ignore neutral distracting information after sleep deprivation. As a consequence, sleep deprivation resulted in similar processing of neutral and negative distractors, thus disabling accurate emotional discrimination. As expected, these findings were further associated with a decrease in prefrontal connectivity patterns in both EEG and fMRI signals, reflecting a profound decline in cognitive control of emotion. Notably, such a decline was associated with lower REM sleep amounts, supporting a role for REM sleep in overnight emotional processing. Altogether, our findings suggest that losing sleep alters emotional reactivity by lowering the threshold for emotional activation, leading to a maladaptive loss of emotional neutrality.

Sleep after learning facilitates memory retention

Sleep Facilitates Memory by Blocking Dopamine Neuron-Mediated Forgetting
Jacob A. Berry, Isaac Cervantes-Sandoval, Molee Chakraborty, Ronald L. Davis
Cell, Volume 161, Issue 7, 18 June 2015, Pages 1656–1667

Early studies from psychology suggest that sleep facilitates memory retention by stopping ongoing retroactive interference caused by mental activity or external sensory stimuli. Neuroscience research with animal models, on the other hand, suggests that sleep facilitates retention by enhancing memory consolidation. Recently, in Drosophila, the ongoing activity of specific dopamine neurons was shown to regulate the forgetting of olfactory memories. Here, we show this ongoing dopaminergic activity is modulated with behavioral state, increasing robustly with locomotor activity and decreasing with rest. Increasing sleep-drive, with either the sleep-promoting agent Gaboxadol or by genetic stimulation of the neural circuit for sleep, decreases ongoing dopaminergic activity, while enhancing memory retention. Conversely, increasing arousal stimulates ongoing dopaminergic activity and accelerates dopaminergic-based forgetting. Therefore, forgetting is regulated by the behavioral state modulation of dopaminergic-based plasticity. Our findings integrate psychological and neuroscience research on sleep and forgetting.

An ultrasound therapy for Alzheimers?

Scanning ultrasound removes amyloid-β and restores memory in an Alzheimer’s disease mouse model
Gerhard Leinenga and Jürgen Götz
Science Translational Medicine 11 Mar 2015:Vol. 7, Issue 278, pp. 278ra33 

 Amyloid-β (Aβ) peptide has been implicated in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). We present a nonpharmacological approach for removing Aβ and restoring memory function in a mouse model of AD in which Aβ is deposited in the brain. We used repeated scanning ultrasound (SUS) treatments of the mouse brain to remove Aβ, without the need for any additional therapeutic agent such as anti-Aβ antibody. Spinning disk confocal microscopy and high-resolution three-dimensional reconstruction revealed extensive internalization of Aβ into the lysosomes of activated microglia in mouse brains subjected to SUS, with no concomitant increase observed in the number of microglia. Plaque burden was reduced in SUS-treated AD mice compared to sham-treated animals, and cleared plaques were observed in 75% of SUS-treated mice. Treated AD mice also displayed improved performance on three memory tasks: the Y-maze, the novel object recognition test, and the active place avoidance task. Our findings suggest that repeated SUS is useful for removing Aβ in the mouse brain without causing overt damage, and should be explored further as a noninvasive method with therapeutic potential in AD.

Link between sleep and Alzheimer's disease

β-amyloid disrupts human NREM slow waves and related hippocampus-dependent memory consolidation
Bryce A Mander, Shawn M Marks, Jacob W Vogel, Vikram Rao, Brandon Lu, Jared M Saletin, Sonia Ancoli-Israel, William J Jagust and Matthew P Walker
Nature Neuroscience

Independent evidence associates β-amyloid pathology with both non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep disruption and memory impairment in older adults. However, whether the influence of β-amyloid pathology on hippocampus-dependent memory is, in part, driven by impairments of NREM slow wave activity (SWA) and associated overnight memory consolidation is unknown. Here we show that β-amyloid burden in medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) correlates significantly with the severity of impairment in NREM SWA generation. Moreover, reduced NREM SWA generation was further associated with impaired overnight memory consolidation and impoverished hippocampal-neocortical memory transformation. Furthermore, structural equation models revealed that the association between mPFC β-amyloid pathology and impaired hippocampus-dependent memory consolidation was not direct, but instead statistically depended on the intermediary factor of diminished NREM SWA. By linking β-amyloid pathology with impaired NREM SWA, these data implicate sleep disruption as a mechanistic pathway through which β-amyloid pathology may contribute to hippocampus-dependent cognitive decline in the elderly.

REM sleep and memory processing

The role of rapid eye movement sleep for amygdala-related memory processing.
Genzel L, Spoormaker V, Konrad BN, Dresler M.
Neurobiol Learn Mem. 2015 Jan 28.

Over the years, rapid eye movement (REM) sleep has been associated with general memory consolidation, specific consolidation of perceptual, procedural, emotional and fear memories, brain maturation and preparation of waking consciousness. More recently, some of these associations (e.g. general and procedural memory consolidation) have been shown to be unlikely, while others (e.g. brain maturation and consciousness) remain inconclusive. In this review, we argue that both behavioral and neurophysiological evidence supports a role of REM sleep for amygdala-related memory processing: the amygdala-hippocampus-medial prefrontal cortex network involved in emotional processing, fear memory and valence consolidation shows strongest activity during REM sleep, in contrast to the hippocampus-medial prefrontal cortex only network which is more active during non-REM sleep. However, more research is needed to fully understand the mechanisms.

Sleep, cognition and aging

Sleep, Cognition, and Normal Aging: Integrating a Half-Century of Multidisciplinary Research.
Scullin MK, Bliwise DL.
Perspect Psychol Sci. 2015 Jan;10(1):97-137. 

Sleep is implicated in cognitive functioning in young adults. With increasing age there are substantial changes to sleep quantity and quality including changes to slow wave sleep, spindle density, and sleep continuity/fragmentation. A provocative question for the field of cognitive aging is whether such changes in sleep physiology affect cognition (e.g., memory consolidation). We review nearly a half-century of research studies across 7 diverse correlational and experimental literature domains, which historically have had little crosstalk. Broadly speaking, sleep and cognitive functions are often related in advancing age, though the prevalence of null effects (including correlations in the unexpected, negative direction) in healthy older adults indicates that age may be an effect modifier of these associations. We interpret the literature as suggesting that maintaining good sleep quality, at least in young adulthood and middle age, promotes better cognitive functioning and serves to protect against age-related cognitive declines.

Sleep duration recommendations

National Sleep Foundation recently published an update to the sleep duration recommendations.

Emotionally salient information and memory performance

Prospection and emotional memory: how expectation affects emotional memory formation following sleep and wake.
Tony J. Cunningham, Alexis M. Chambers, and Jessica D. Payne
Front Psychol. 2014 Aug 4;5:862. 

Successful prospective memory is necessarily driven by an expectation that encoded information will be relevant in the future, leading to its preferential placement in memory storage. Like expectation, emotional salience is another type of cue that benefits human memory formation. Although separate lines of research suggest that both emotional information and information explicitly expected to be important in the future benefit memory consolidation, it is unknown how expectation affects the processing of emotional information and whether sleep, which is known to maximize memory consolidation, plays a critical role. The purpose of this study was to investigate how expectation would impact the consolidation of emotionally salient content, and whether this impact would differ across delays of sleep and wake. Participants encoded scenes containing an emotionally charged negative or neutral foreground object placed on a plausible neutral background. After encoding, half of the participants were informed they would later be tested on the scenes (expected condition), while the other half received no information about the test (unexpected condition). At recognition, following a 12-h delay of sleep or wakefulness, the scene components (objects and backgrounds) were presented separately and one at a time, and participants were asked to determine if each component was old or new. Results revealed a greater disparity for memory of negative objects over their paired neutral backgrounds for both the sleep and wake groups when the memory test was expected compared to when it was unexpected, while neutral memory remained unchanged. Analyzing each group separately, the wake group showed a threefold increase in the magnitude of this object/background trade-off for emotional scenes when the memory test was expected compared to when it was unexpected, while those who slept performed similarly across conditions. These results suggest that emotional salience and expectation cues interact to benefit emotional memory consolidation during a delay of wakefulness. The sleeping brain, however, may automatically tag emotionally salient information as important, such that explicit instruction of an upcoming memory test does not further improve memory performance.

Sleep to Remember