Research

Our lab is based at the Donders Institute in Nijmegen, Netherlands. Our research centers on the cognitive neuroscience of sleep and memory, using behavioral, endocrinological, pharmacological, electrophysiological and neuroimaging approaches in healthy subjects and psychiatric and neurological patients. We aim for basic and clinical insights into the cognitive and neural mechanisms underlying sleep and into the role of sleep for cognitive functioning. Applications of this research include treatment options and new biomarkers for psychiatric and neurological disorders and enhancement of cognitive functions in health and disease.

A major research line investigates cognitive processes occurring during sleep, including different kinds of dream experiences. In particular we are studying the phenomenon of lucid dreaming, i.e. the conscious insight into the dream state during ongoing sleep. The skill of lucid dreaming allows for the performance of specific tasks during sleep and is thus highly valuable for sleep research, however it also has several clinical and practical applications. We are particularly interested in the neural mechanism that give rise to such metacognitive processes during sleep.

A further major research line investigates different memory systems, from declarative memories for facts and episodes, to procedural memories for motor skills, to emotional memories for stressful experiences. We study neurobiological mechanisms underlying the consolidation of newly acquired memories during sleep, and how it is altered or impaired in psychiatric disorders.

Finally, we are interested in different ‘brain hacking’ strategies: We study if and how memory can be enhanced by different mnemonic techniques. We are exploring how the rare state of lucid dreaming could be more reliably induced e.g. by virtual reality and brain stimulation techniques. We are investigating strategies to reduce total sleep time by polyphasic sleep rhythms, i.e. the idea that regular naps during the day might be more efficient than single extended sleep periods.

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