Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 208, Issue 4, pp 507–517 | Cite as

Offline consolidation of procedural skill learning is enhanced by negative emotional content

  • Amir Homayoun Javadi
  • Vincent Walsh
  • Penelope A. Lewis
Research Article


It is now well established that both procedural skills and episodic memories consolidate across periods of offline retention, and most particularly across periods of sleep. Such consolidation has been demonstrated to be more marked for emotional than for neutral episodes, but the interaction between emotionality and the offline consolidation of procedural skills has yet to be investigated. Here, we address this issue by examining the impact of an emotional background context at encoding upon the subsequent consolidation of mirror tracing, a well-studied procedural skill. We also consider the importance of sleep for such consolidation by manipulating the retention interval (over a day, overnight, or over 24 h containing normal sleep). Our data show significantly greater offline improvements in the accuracy of mirror tracing when negative emotional content is present during the training phase when compared to when neutral or positive content is present. Furthermore, consolidation across a night of sleep is associated with faster and more accurate performance than consolidation across a day of wakefulness. These novel findings show that the emotional context in which a procedural skill is learned can impact upon subsequent offline consolidation.


Consolidation Procedural memory Procedural learning Emotion Sleep 



We would like to thank Iroise Dumontheil for critical reading of the manuscript and Bahador Bahrami for technical assistance. We would also like to thank the two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments. PAL is supported by a BBSRC New Investigator award [BB/F003048/1].


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Amir Homayoun Javadi
    • 1
  • Vincent Walsh
    • 1
  • Penelope A. Lewis
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute of Cognitive NeuroscienceUniversity College LondonLondonUK
  2. 2.Neuroscience of Aphasia Research UnitThe University of ManchesterManchesterUK

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