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Psychologist to Probe Mysteries, Beauty of Sleep

Merrimack's Institutional Review Board has approved research experiments to study the effects of concussions on sleep, emotional reactivity to behavioral tasks and brain activity that are to be conducted in a new sleep lab.

The experiments will be run by Assistant Professor of Pyschology Lauri Kurdziel in the Learning, Memory and Sleep Lab in the new psychology research suite in O’Reilly Hall.

Sleep affects cognitive ability, physical ability, emotions, health and stress. Every major disease or disorder has some associated sleep problems, Kurdziel said.

Almost every animal ever studied has some form of sleep behavior; however, scientists are still attempting to understand the functions of sleep and even why we need sleep. Kurdziel is studying preschoolers, to learn why they need to nap, and college-age students, to learn how napping affects emotions and memory.

“Sleep is very important, and we don’t really know why it’s important,” Kurdziel said. “It’s this mysterious and beautiful area of people’s lives, and we don’t really understand much about it.”

The sleep lab resembles a comfortable bedroom with a trundle bed, chair and desk, plus a white-noise machine. A Provost Innovation Fund grant paid for an electroencephalography machine to measure brainwaves of volunteer subjects, both while asleep and when awake and actively working on a research task.

Kurdziel’s research assistants include Rachael Spinney ’18, a human development major from Rockland, Massachusetts, and psychology majors Gabriel Jewula ’18 of Buffalo, New York, Ashlee Cormier ’18 of Methuen, Massachusetts and Emily Maier ’18 of Mesa, Arizona.