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A combined fMRI and EMG study of emotional contagion following partial sleep deprivation in young and older humans

  • Tamm, Sandra1, 2
  • Schwarz, Johanna1, 2
  • Thuné, Hanna3
  • Kecklund, Göran1, 2
  • Petrovic, Predrag2
  • Åkerstedt, Torbjörn1, 2
  • Fischer, Håkan1
  • Lekander, Mats1, 2
  • Nilsonne, Gustav1, 2
  • 1 Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden , Stockholm (Sweden)
  • 2 Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden , Stockholm (Sweden)
  • 3 University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK , Glasgow (United Kingdom)
Published Article
Scientific Reports
Springer Nature
Publication Date
Oct 21, 2020
DOI: 10.1038/s41598-020-74489-9
Springer Nature


Sleep deprivation is proposed to inhibit top-down-control in emotion processing, but it is unclear whether sleep deprivation affects emotional mimicry and contagion. Here, we aimed to investigate effects of partial sleep deprivation on emotional contagion and mimicry in young and older humans. Participants underwent partial sleep deprivation (3 h sleep opportunity at the end of night), crossed-over with a full sleep condition in a balanced order, followed by a functional magnetic resonance imaging and electromyography (EMG) experiment with viewing of emotional and neutral faces and ratings of emotional responses. The final sample for main analyses was n = 69 (n = 36 aged 20–30 years, n = 33 aged 65–75 years). Partial sleep deprivation caused decreased activation in fusiform gyri for angry faces and decreased ratings of happiness for all stimuli, but no significant effect on the amygdala. Older participants reported more anger compared to younger participants, but no age differences were seen in brain responses to emotional faces or sensitivity to partial sleep deprivation. No effect of the sleep manipulation was seen on EMG. In conclusion, emotional contagion, but not mimicry, was affected by sleep deprivation. Our results are consistent with the previously reported increased negativity bias after insufficient sleep. The Stockholm sleepy brain study: effects of sleep deprivation on cognitive and emotional processing in young and old.

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