Western neuroscientist investigates why humans sleep

As North America prepares to turn its collective clocks back an hour this weekend, consequently gaining an hour of sleep, a neuroscientist at Western University is investigating one of the dominant hypotheses that would explain the unsolved mystery of why humans sleep.

Stuart Fogel, who recently joined Adrian Owen’s team at Western’s Brain and Mind Institute as a Research Scientist, is conducting research that predicts the primary function of sleep is memory consolidation, or more simply, it’s the process needed to form lasting memories.

Fogel is available to discuss his research on Thursday, October 31 at 11 a.m. at the Brain & Mind Sleep Research Laboratory (www.BMIsleeplab.uwo.ca), located on the first floor of the Natural Sciences Building. Members of the media will have an opportunity to observe  non-evasive electroencephalography (EEG) brain recordings during the presentation.

“When sleep follows learning, enhanced memory consolidation is observed as compared to an equivalent period of wakefulness,” explains Fogel. “Sleep supports normal development, enhancement and regulation of the human body but it also, very importantly, encourages the same things in the brain.”

Fogel aims to not only study the physiological reactivation of memories during sleep, but also to uncover physiological and cognitive evidence of memory replay during sleep.

“This may ultimately help answer the age-old question of why we sleep, and provide insight into the function of dreams,” says Fogel.