Effects of sleep loss on emotion recognition: a dissociation between face and word stimuli
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Short-term sleep deprivation, or extended wakefulness, adversely affects cognitive functions and behavior. However, scarce research has addressed the effects of sleep deprivation (SD) on emotional processing. In this study, we investigated the impact of reduced vigilance due to moderate sleep deprivation on the ability to recognize emotional expressions of faces and emotional content of words. Participants remained awake for 24 h and performed the tasks in two sessions, one in which they were not affected by sleep loss (baseline; BSL), and other affected by SD, according to a counterbalanced sequence. Tasks were carried out twice at 10:00 and 4:00 am, or at 12:00 and 6:00 am. In both tasks, participants had to respond to the emotional valence of the target stimulus: negative, positive, or neutral. The results showed that in the word task, sleep deprivation impaired recognition irrespective of the emotional valence of words. However, sleep deprivation impaired recognition of emotional face expressions mainly when they showed a neutral expression. Emotional face expressions were less affected by the sleep loss, but positive faces were more resistant than negative faces to the detrimental effect of sleep deprivation. The differential effects of sleep deprivation on recognition of the different emotional stimuli are indicative of emotional facial expressions being stronger emotional stimuli than emotional laden words. This dissociation may be attributed to the more automatic sensory encoding of emotional facial content. © 2014, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.
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