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CRF Scholar Rebecca Spencer Publishes New Study That Finds Sleep Preserves and Enhances Unpleasant Emotional Memories

A recent study by CRF Family Research Scholar (’10-’11) Rebecca Spencer suggests that sleep preserves and enhances unpleasant emotion memories.

In collaboration with researchers from the UMass Department of Psychology and the Neuroscience and Behavior Program, Spencer, assistant professor of psychology, found that sleep had significant effects on participants’ memories and feelings.

"Today, our findings have significance for people with post-traumatic stress disorder, for example, or those asked to give eye-witness testimony in court cases," Spencer says.

The study, which looked at 106 young adults between 18 and 30 years old, explored that enhancement of memory during sleep is tied to a change in emotional response to the memory.  Participants were shown pictures on a computer screen 12 hours apart and had to rate their response to the pictures.  Recognition memory for the pictures was better following sleep compared with wake.

As a Family Scholar, Spencer developed several grant proposals surrounding the effects of sleep on infants and the elderly. Spencer, an active researcher, has several grant proposals pending with the National Institutes of Health, and American Federation for Aging Research, and the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation.

The study has been published in the current issue of the Journal of Neuroscience:

For more information on the results of this study, please visit:

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