Research

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Through a cognitive neuroscience approach, our laboratory seeks a fundamental understanding of how sleep interacts with cognition in healthy people across the life cycle, in brain diseases, and in sleep disorders.


Our research falls into four main categories, collectively referred to as The Sound Sleep Project:


  1. 1.Perceptual processing during sleep.

How does perception change across the sleep-wake continuum and what can this tell us about sleep physiology and cognitive phenomena?

Studying perception during sleep is a method that can expose key insights about the biology of sleep. While playing sounds to sleeping people, we can examine responses in their brains. What sounds cause sleep disruption? What brain signals protect sleep from disturbances?

By knowing this information, we set the stage to manipulate sleep physiology for people with challenged sleep, or for those sleeping in adverse (e.g., noisy) conditions -- including hospitals, military zones, inner cities, etc..

Related questions include:

What sensory information is perceived during sleep?

What specific brain mechanisms protect sleep from threats, such as noise? Are these unique to different people? Are there different physiological signatures of healthy protective sleep? 

Can you learn new information during sleep with a book on tape, or musical score? Can we understand the biological mechanisms of why these phenomena exist (or why they don’t)?


2. How does sleep influence waking experience?

Does sleep boost memory?

Does a lack of sleep impair attention?

What are the biological mechanisms that underpin these and related effects of sleep on daytime cognitive functioning?


3. How do waking experiences influence sleep?

Does learning facts or experiencing new information during the day change the neurophysiological profile of sleep at night?

Do our brains replay information while we sleep?


  1. 4.What are the biological and behavioral consequences of sleep disruption?

For example, injury and even death are still a major part of our transportation systems, with human error behind the wheel as a major contributor. What role does sleepiness play in drivers making costly mistakes? What can we do to reduce this burden?