Does Superior Sleep Physiology Contribute to Superior Memory Function? Implications for Counteracting Forgetting

Project: Research project

Project Details


Northwestern University (Sub) will collaborate with Dr. Westerberg (Texas State University- Prime) on the following 2 experiments: Experiment 1 Method. To achieve our first specific aim of determining whether HSAM individuals have unique sleep physiology, we will recruit additional HSAM individuals to undergo two consecutive nights of full polysomnography (PSG) to obtain a sample of 12 HSAM individuals (and 24 matched controls; see below). Experiment 2 Although unusual sleep physiology will be documented in HSAM in Experiment 1, it is also important to go beyond describing such physiological differences by seeking stronger evidence that could link sleep in HSAM to their exceptional memory abilities. Toward this end, we propose to use two complementary methods. Both will be engaged concurrently, and both while people sleep in their own homes, which has the advantage of emphasizing the normal sleep people obtain away from the confines and restrictions of a sleep lab. This new line of research will allow us to conduct the first analysis of sleep physiology in HSAM and test the provocative idea that enhanced sleep-dependent memory consolidation underlies their extraordinary autobiographical memory abilities. Not only will these results provide further insight into HSAM, sleep, and memory consolidation, but we are also hopeful about prospects for identifying aspects of sleep physiology that could be leveraged to help individuals with memory problems reduce forgetting. For example, if spindles are implicated in superior memory, as tentatively indicated by our pilot data, this could pave the way for the development of pharmacological, electrical, or other interventions that increase spindle activity and in turn help alleviate some frustrations experienced by patients with memory problems.
Effective start/end date2/1/201/31/24


  • Texas State University (MCK 10292019 // 20025-83414-1)
  • McKnight Endowment Fund for Neuroscience (MCK 10292019 // 20025-83414-1)


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