Sleep and memory are both processes that change over the lifespan. In older adults, sleep quality decreases and memory impairments increase. In one series of studies (funded by the National Institutes of Aging), we’re interested in whether these processes are related.
On the other hand, preschool age children are highly plastic and nocturnal sleep is supplemented with a mid-day nap. Whether this mid-day nap provides cognitive benefits is important to early education policies. This line of work is funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Additionally, we predict that the timeline of children’s transition out of mid-day napping is a function of brain development. In collaboration with Dr. Tracy Riggins and University of Maryland, we are studying the relation between this sleep transition and brain and cognitive development. This work is funded by the National Institute for Child Health and Development as well as the National Science Foundation.
The Sleep Lab, opened in 2015, has three temperature and light controlled bedrooms, a central control room, and comfort facilities such as a kitchen, restroom with shower, and living room.
Our lab combines multiple techniques to examine sleep and brain function. This multifaceted approach also enhances the learning environment for undergrads and grad students involved in our research.
We use polysomnography (PSG) to assess sleep architecture and microstructure. We have multiple PSG units used to measure sleep across our studies. For some studies, ambulatory PSG is used (Grass AURA, Embletta). In most studies, we are interested in topography of sleep physiology and mid-to-high density PSG is used. We used custom-made BrainVision caps with 36-125 electrodes.
We have over 40 Actiwatch Spectrum Plus watches to use in our studies. Actigraphy is useful for measuring habitual sleep patterns, sleep efficiency, and sleep timing, and can also provide a measurement of physical activity.
We can learn about the brain through behavior. We use a variety of programming languages to develop our own tasks and analyses.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
Our work has employed both functional and structural MRI techniques. This work is done in the new Human Magnetic Resonance Center (hMRC), located one floor below the sleep lab. The hMRC houses a state-of-the-art 3T Seimens MR scanner.