It is now well-established that sleep affects our ability to remember new things. For instance, human participants who go to sleep after learning a set of new words are better able to recall those words than participants who spend an equivalent amount of time awake. Recent findings from our lab suggest that sleep not only influences our memory for new things but also how we make sense of language—things we already know.
Our current research, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), aims at uncovering how sleep affects the way we comprehend language. We try to address questions such as: How does sleep influence our ability to retain key information from text/conversation? Does sleep influence the integration of such information into our long-term memory? In addition to behavioural testing, we will also record participants’ brain wave as they sleep using electroencephalography (EEG). This way, we will be able to establish which sleep stage(s) may be more important to our comprehension ability.
Professor Gaskell's areas of expertise include sleep and memory, speech perception, neural networks and language processing and learning new vocabulary.