Erin Wamsley, an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Furman University, has received a $347,000 grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) to study the effect of waking rest on memory.
The three-year Academic Research Enhancement Award will support Wamsley’s ongoing research at the Furman Sleep Laboratory, where she and her students study how the brain processes memories during sleep, as well as the relationship of sleep-dependent memory processing to dream experiences.
The NIMH is a division of the National Institutes of Health.
“Sleep is an important time in which newly learned information is consolidated into memory,” Wamsley says. “But new evidence also suggests that memory may be consolidated during short periods of quiet waking rest interspersed throughout the day. The goal of this new research project is to define the features of waking rest that contribute to its memory-enhancing effect, and to isolate the neurophysiological mechanisms responsible.”
By manipulating both behavior and neurophysiology, Wamsley and her research team plan to learn more about the conscious states that are most beneficial for memory. The research will benefit public health by facilitating a greater understanding of long-term memory consolidation during wake and sleep, as well as the dysfunction of this process in memory- and sleep-related disorders.
“Ultimately,” says Wamsley, “the research could lead to new methods of enhancing memory retention in patients suffering from age-related memory decline or other memory disorders.”
Wamsley joined the Department of Psychology and Program in Neuroscience at Furman in 2014. She began her academic career at Guilford College in North Carolina, where she double-majored in psychology and philosophy. She went on to complete her doctoral studies at the City University of New York working in a Harlem-based sleep lab.
After earning her Ph.D. in 2007, Wamsley began a postdoctoral fellowship in the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, where she was later promoted to Instructor of Psychiatry. During this time, Wamsley focused on her research, authoring more than 30 research articles, reviews, and book chapters.
For more information, contact the Furman University News and Media Relations Office at (864) 294-3107 or visit the Furman Sleep Laboratory.