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The functions of sleep: learning, memory, and synaptic plasticity

Sleep is a widespread (and perhaps universal) phenomenon: most or all animal species, ranging from invertebrates to humans, experience sleep or states very similar to sleep. Thus, sleep likely serves some vital function(s) throughout the animal kingdom.

The primary research interest of the Sleep & Neuroplasticity Laboratory focuses on the role of sleep in learning and memory formation. Drawing on over 20 years of studying neuroplasticity (e.g., long-term potentiation/LTP) and learning in animal models, we now investigate memory consolidation in the human brain during sleep and waking states.

Specific research questions under investigation include:

  • the role of waking and napping in declarative and non-declarative memory consolidation

  • comparisons of sleep and quiet waking (e.g., meditation) in memory consolidation

  • sleep and memory in special populations (e.g., clinical depression)

  • sleep, homeostasis, rest, and recovery

  • use of biofeedback to induce sleep-like EEG oscillations

Our laboratory techniques

  • polysomnography (EEG, EMG, EOG)

  • sleep stage scoring

  • computerized and other test batteries of cognitive and sensory-motor functioning in humans.