Aversive memories are long-lasting and prone to have adverse effects on our emotional wellbeing and mental health. Yet, how to remedy the maladaptive effects of aversive memories remains elusive. Using memory reactivation and emotional updating manipulations, we investigated how positive and neutral emotion updates aversive memories for reconsolidation in humans. We found that positive updating after reactivation was equivalent to neutral updating in altering true memories of the aversive story, but introduced more false memory. Moreover, an additional 12 hours of sleep reconsolidation did not further enlarge true memory differences, but attenuated the effect of reactivation and updating on false memory. Interestingly, the neutral rather than the positive updating reduced the emotional arousal of the aversive memory 24 hours later. Our findings provide novel insights into real-world therapeutic applications regarding how updating with positive and neutral emotion may reshape aversive memories, especially when taking wake- and sleep-filled reconsolidation into account.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience