All humans require sleep daily to be physically and mentally healthy. Sleep is known to play a role in solidifying new memories and learning. However, researchers do not fully understand the processes in the brain that underlie the consolidation of newly acquired information and skills during sleep.
With the support of a CIHR Fellowship, Dr. Dylan Smith from University of Ottawa Institute for Mental Health Research is combining electroencephalography (EEG) with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to peer inside the brains of healthy volunteers and study these processes at work.
Study participants are placed inside an MRI brain scanner wherein they are instructed to solve a visual puzzle before falling asleep. Dr. Smith is analyzing the data from these brain scans with a focus on sleep spindles – fast bursts of brain activity linked to sleep and memory – in parts of the brain associated with learning, such as the prefrontal cortex, hippocampus, and striatum. This research is providing new insight into how our brains integrate new learning while we’re sleeping.
Learn more about the Faces of health research 2022 on the CIHR website.