Napping promotes inter-session habituation to emotional stimuli

Edward F. Pace-Schott, Elizabeth Shepherd, Rebecca M.C. Spencer, Matthew Marcello, Matthew Tucker, Ruth E. Propper, Robert Stickgold

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89 Scopus citations


The effects of a daytime nap on inter-session habituation to aversive visual stimuli were investigated. Healthy young adult volunteers viewed repeated presentations of highly negative and emotionally neutral (but equally arousing) International Affective Picture System (IAPS) photographs during two afternoon sessions separated by 2.5. h. Half of the photographs were shown at both sessions (Repeated Sets) and half differed between sessions (Novel Sets). For each stimulus presentation, evoked skin conductance response (SCR), heart-rate deceleration (HRD) and corrugator supercilii EMG response (EMG), were computed and range corrected using respective maximum session-1 responses. Following each presentation, subjects rated each photograph on dimensions of pleasantness and arousability. During the inter-session interval, Nap subjects had a 120-min polysomnographically monitored sleep opportunity, whereas Wake subjects watched a non-stimulating video. Nap and Wake subjects did not differ in their subjective ratings of photographs. However, for Repeated-Set photographs, Nap subjects demonstrated greater inter-session habituation in SCR and EMG but a trend toward lesser inter-session habituation in HRD. These group differences were absent for Novel-Set photographs. Group differences across all measures were greater for negative stimuli. Occurrence of SWS during the nap was associated with greater inter-session habituation of EMG whereas occurrence of REM was associated with lesser inter-session habituation of SCR to negative stimuli. Sleep may therefore promote emotional adjustment at the level of somatic responses. Physiological but not subjective inter-session habituation to aversive images was enhanced by a daytime nap.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)24-36
Number of pages13
JournalNeurobiology of Learning and Memory
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2011


  • Emotion
  • Emotion regulation
  • Habituation
  • Napping
  • Psychophysiology
  • Sleep


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