Sleep helps us to lay down memories of the past. Contemporary models of sleep-associated memory processing posit that newly formed memories are reactivated in the sleeping brain, prompting their integration into long-term storage. Memory reactivations predominate during the deepest stage of sleep, known as slow-wave sleep, and are driven by the neural oscillations that characterise this sleep stage: slow oscillations and spindles.
We use memory cueing techniques to stimulate reactivation during slow-wave sleep, and thus selectively strengthen certain memories over others. Using time-frequency analysis, we investigate changes in the Electroencephalography (EEG) signal that accompanies reactivation events, focusing on sleep spindles and slow oscillations. Moreover, with multivariate pattern analysis, we determine whether the informational content of reactivated memories can be decoded from the EEG data.
Dr Cairney's research combines experimental psychology, cognitive neuroscience and neurophysiology to investigate how emotional memories are processed in the sleeping brain.
Professor Gaskell's areas of expertise include sleep and memory, speech perception, neural networks and language processing and learning new vocabulary.