The effects of sleep deprivation and poor sleep quality on Emotional Empathy: the behavioral and neural mechanisms in healthy controls
Committee MemberProtzner, Andrea
Antle, Michael Christopher
Longman, Richard Stewart
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AbstractThis dissertation describes a series of experiments exploring the intricate relationship between sleep and Emotional Empathy, i.e., the ability to understand someone else’s emotions through vicarious sharing. First, I used a sleep deprivation protocol, in which sleep quality was experimentally manipulated, to test the hypothesis that sleep deprivation negatively affects the Emotional Empathy of healthy individuals (Chapter 3). The findings of this study revealed a blunting of Emotional Empathy responses across all valences for participants in the sleep deprivation group compared to participants in the control groups. I then tested the hypothesis that sleep quality accounts for variability in individuals’ empathic responses by looking at effects of natural occurring changes in sleep quality on Emotional Empathy (Chapter 4). In this study, I collected subjective (questionnaires) and objective (actigraphy) measures of sleep and used a sophisticated statistical analysis to reduce the number of collected sleep variables and generate independent factors that were then entered into a series of stepwise regressions. The results of this study showed that the subjective sleep quality factor best explained participants’ Emotional Empathy responses to negative images compared to neutral, while the total sleep duration factor best explained overall Empathy scores. Finally, to test the hypothesis of a modulatory role of sleep quality on the neural activity of areas identified as components of the Emotional Empathy network, I conducted a Region of Interest (ROI) analysis, and measured Blood Oxygen Level Dependent (BOLD) signal change while participants performed an Emotional Empathy task. In addition, I tested the effects of sleep quality on the task based functional connectivity between the selected ROIs. The data revealed decreased BOLD signal change in a selective region within the left anterior insula for individuals with poor subjective sleep quality together with increased functional connectivity between subcomponents of the anterior insula, indicating lower functional specialization. Overall, these studies suggest a detrimental effect of poor sleep quality on Emotional Empathy and its underlying neural mechanisms. These findings could benefit individuals affected by sleep disorders but also bring insight on the importance of considering sleep loss in daily life as a detrimental factor when planning work schedules.
CitationGuadagni, V. (2017). The effects of sleep deprivation and poor sleep quality on Emotional Empathy: the behavioral and neural mechanisms in healthy controls (Unpublished doctoral thesis). University of Calgary, Calgary, AB. doi:10.11575/PRISM/28117
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