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Poor Sleep Quality and Compromised Visual Working Memory Capacity

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  29 April 2019

Weizhen Xie
Department of Psychology, University of California, Riverside, California, USA National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, USA
Anne Berry*
Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute, University of California, Berkeley, California, USA Department of Psychology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA
Cindy Lustig
Department of Psychology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA
Patricia Deldin
Department of Psychology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA
Weiwei Zhang*
Department of Psychology, University of California, Riverside, California, USA
*Correspondence and reprint requests to: Weiwei Zhang, 900 University Ave., Riverside, CA 92521. E-mail:; Anne Berry, 132 Barker Hall, Berkeley, CA 94720. E-mail:
*Correspondence and reprint requests to: Weiwei Zhang, 900 University Ave., Riverside, CA 92521. E-mail:; Anne Berry, 132 Barker Hall, Berkeley, CA 94720. E-mail:


Objectives: Reduction in the amount of information (storage capacity) retained in working memory (WM) has been associated with sleep loss. The present study examined whether reduced WM capacity is also related to poor everyday sleep quality and, more importantly, whether the effects of sleep quality could be dissociated from the effects of depressed mood and age on WM. Methods: In two studies, WM was assessed using a short-term recall task, producing behavioral measures for both the amount of retained WM information (capacity) and how precise the retained WM representations were (precision). Self-report measures of sleep quality and depressed mood were obtained using questionnaires. Results: In a sample of college students, Study 1 found that poor sleep quality and depressed mood could independently predict reduced WM capacity, but not WM precision. Study 2 generalized these sleep- and mood-related WM capacity effects to a community sample (aged 21–77 years) and further showed that age was associated with reduced WM precision. Conclusions: Together, these findings demonstrate dissociable effects of three health-related factors (sleep, mood, and age) on WM representations and highlighte the importance of assessing different aspects of WM representations (e.g., capacity and precision) in future neuropsychological research.

Regular Research
Copyright © INS. Published by Cambridge University Press, 2019. 

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These authors contributed equally to the present study.



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