Sleep and Learning Lab

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Our Research

Consolidation of Complex Skill Learning
A primary line of research in the lab investigates the consolidation of complex skill learning. We have found a consistent pattern of sleep-dependent consolidation in which sleep stabilizes memory and inoculates it against subsequent loss. In contrast, performance significantly degrades after a waking retention interval. However, a period of sleep can actually restore performance that appeared to have been lost. We are currently extending this work in several directions to investigate differences in consolidation based on skill complexity, and investigating the duration of sleep necessary for consolidation.

Episodic Memory Consolidation
Accurate episodic memory is critically important to most species. We are interested in how memory for declarative information changes over time and have several projects that are aimed at investigating how sleep affects episodic memory consolidation and false memory. In a recent study, we found that false recognition was reduced after a period of sleep, comparable to waking. We are extending this work to investigate the type of information that is consolidated during sleep and how consolidation differs based on encoding processes.

The Role of Gesture and Sleep in Mathematical Learning
Gesture contributes to long-term maintenance of mathematical learning in children. In collaboration with Susan Wagner Cook, at the University of Iowa, we are currently investigating whether or not gesture also improves retention of mathematical skills in adults. Furthermore, we are extending this work to investigate the role of sleep in the consolidation of mathematical skills learned with gesture.

Prosody and Word Learning
Words and sentences are the main vehicle for conveying information in spoken communication. However, people can convey information not only through the words they use, but also through the way they say these words, specifically through the prosody of their speech. Previous research has shown that people convey information about objects by manipulating acoustic properties of their speech such as pitch and speech rate, for example by speaking faster in describing fast moving objects or raising their pitch in describing upward moving objects. We are interested in seeing whether such prosodic modulation has an effect on the memory and representation of the conveyed information.