While sleep loss is shown to have widespread effects on cognitive processes, little is known about the impact of sleep loss on emotion processes. In order to expand on previous behavioral and physiological findings on how sleep loss influences emotion processing, we administered positive, negative, and neutral affective visual stimuli to individuals after one night of sleep deprivation while simultaneously acquiring EEG event related potential (ERP) data and recording affective behavioral responses. We compared these responses to a baseline testing session. We specifically looked at the late positive potential (LPP) component of the visual ERP as an established sensitive measure of attention to emotionally-charged visual stimuli. Our results show that after sleep deprivation, the LPP no longer discriminates between emotional and non-emotional pictures; after sleep deprivation the LPP amplitude was of similar amplitude for neutral, positive, and negative pictures. This effect was driven by an increase in the LPP to neutral pictures. Our behavioral measures show that, relative to baseline testing, emotional pictures are rated as less emotional following sleep deprivation with a concomitant reduction in emotional picture-induced anxiety. We did not observe any change in cortisol concentrations after sleep deprivation before or after emotional picture exposure, suggesting that the observed changes in emotion processing are independent of potential stress effects of sleep deprivation. Combined, our findings suggest that sleep loss interferes with proper allocation of attention resources during an emotional task.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/jaime-tartar/18/