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Sleep’s role in updating aversive autobiographical memories


Azza, Yasmine; Wilhelm, Frank H; Seifritz, Erich; Junghanns, Klaus; Kleim, Birgit; Wilhelm, Ines (2022). Sleep’s role in updating aversive autobiographical memories. Translational Psychiatry, 12(1):117.

Abstract

Aversive autobiographical memories play a key role in the development and maintenance of many mental disorders. Imagery rescripting is a well-established psychotherapeutic intervention aiming to create a more adaptive version of an aversive memory by modifying its interpretation. Sleep has been shown to support reconsolidation of updated neutral memories. Here, we investigated in healthy participants whether a 90-min nap compared to wake supports the adaptive reconsolidation of autobiographical memories. Forty-four university students received a single 50-min imagery rescripting session. Thereafter, half of the participants took a 90-min nap, whereas the other half stayed awake. Subjective (arousal ratings, reports of emotions and dysfunctional cognitions) and heart rate (HR) responses to individual memory scripts were measured before the intervention (pre), after the 90-min retention interval (post 1) and 7 days later (post 2). Results demonstrate a significant decrease in distress of aversive memories pre to post imagery rescripting. The nap group showed less distressing dysfunctional cognitions along with a lower HR in response to the negative memory script as compared to the wake group at post 1. These differences were no longer evident 1 week later (post 2). Central sleep spindle density during the nap was correlated with the reduction in HR in response to the negative memory script from pre to post 1. Our results provide first evidence for sleep benefitting adaptive reconsolidation of aversive autobiographical memories. Future research should expand this approach to clinical populations and investigate precise conditions under which sleep may benefit psychotherapeutic interventions utilizing reconsolidation mechanisms.

Abstract

Aversive autobiographical memories play a key role in the development and maintenance of many mental disorders. Imagery rescripting is a well-established psychotherapeutic intervention aiming to create a more adaptive version of an aversive memory by modifying its interpretation. Sleep has been shown to support reconsolidation of updated neutral memories. Here, we investigated in healthy participants whether a 90-min nap compared to wake supports the adaptive reconsolidation of autobiographical memories. Forty-four university students received a single 50-min imagery rescripting session. Thereafter, half of the participants took a 90-min nap, whereas the other half stayed awake. Subjective (arousal ratings, reports of emotions and dysfunctional cognitions) and heart rate (HR) responses to individual memory scripts were measured before the intervention (pre), after the 90-min retention interval (post 1) and 7 days later (post 2). Results demonstrate a significant decrease in distress of aversive memories pre to post imagery rescripting. The nap group showed less distressing dysfunctional cognitions along with a lower HR in response to the negative memory script as compared to the wake group at post 1. These differences were no longer evident 1 week later (post 2). Central sleep spindle density during the nap was correlated with the reduction in HR in response to the negative memory script from pre to post 1. Our results provide first evidence for sleep benefitting adaptive reconsolidation of aversive autobiographical memories. Future research should expand this approach to clinical populations and investigate precise conditions under which sleep may benefit psychotherapeutic interventions utilizing reconsolidation mechanisms.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Psychology
Dewey Decimal Classification:150 Psychology
Scopus Subject Areas:Health Sciences > Psychiatry and Mental Health
Life Sciences > Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
Life Sciences > Biological Psychiatry
Uncontrolled Keywords:Biological Psychiatry, Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience, Psychiatry and Mental health
Language:English
Date:1 December 2022
Deposited On:12 Oct 2022 14:03
Last Modified:27 Jun 2024 01:40
Publisher:Nature Publishing Group
ISSN:2158-3188
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:PubMed ID. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1038/s41398-022-01878-1
PubMed ID:35332136
Project Information:
  • : FunderSNSF
  • : Grant ID10001C_179241
  • : Project TitleSleep and the modification of maladaptive memories: from basic mechanisms to therapy
  • : FunderSNSF
  • : Grant ID10001C_169827
  • : Project TitleOptimising outcomes in psychotherapy for anxiety disorders (OPTIMAX)
  • Content: Published Version
  • Language: English
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)