Cognitive Neuroscience of Sleep – Radboud Summer School 2019
Written by Rathiga Varatheeswaran
I attended the first Cognitive Neuroscience of Sleep summer school in Nijmegen, Netherlands, in the second week of July. It was organized by my former supervisors. I was quite excited for this summer school as the talks covered many of my interests and I was quite excited to be back in Nijmegen, where I studied and worked for 6.5 years.
The organizers planned a very ambitious project for the participants: collaborative work on a paper, where the participants were the collaborators working on different tasks, such as pre-registration, data collection, analysis, etc. The aim of this project was to teach open-science practices and eventually publish it as a pre-print (at least). The aim of the study was to investigate the influence of night-time sleep on daytime attention. To investigate this, around 27 summer school participants slept for three nights and followed three lectures wearing a headband, which could record brain activity with two electrodes on the forehead. This is enough to do some sleep scoring (manually determining the sleep stage) and sleep analysis. The measurement of sleep is executed through the use of polysomnography, where brain activity, muscle activity and eye movements are recorded. In sleep medicine studies other things are also measured, such as the respiration rate. Polysomnography is used to diagnose sleep disorders.
The summer school was quite intense. On the first three days, the talks were followed by social activities organized by the school. The Thursday afternoon was blocked for the project in order to get some reading and planning done. The idea was to get most of the work for the project done during the summer school. In general, the schedule contained talks on various topics related to sleep, such as memory, animal models or insomnia. Also, there were plenty of practical sessions, where one could learn about sleep scoring.
The summer school was followed by a symposium on meta-cognition during day and night, where the talks covered the topics of mind-wandering and lucid dreaming. Lucid dreaming mainly means that one is aware of the dreaming state and additionally some degree of control of the dream content is also possible, but not always. Everyone was welcome to join the symposium. Stephan LaBerge, who is famous in the field of lucid dreaming research, also gave talks during the summer school and the symposium. Meeting him was probably the highlight for many attendees.
All in all, it was an exhaustive, but productive and enjoyable summer school. Attendees with different levels of knowledge on sleep research were able to learn something from the summer school, as many talks also covered unpublished work. The organizers intend to plan another summer school in the coming years, so if you are interested, watch out for more news at: www.dreslerlab.org
Written by Rathiga Varatheeswaran; Edited by Radhika Menon. Featured image: NGC/Design.