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Explain how biological factors affect one cognitive process

Specific Topics covered in these notes: 1. Sleep and School Performance 2. Alzheimers Disease and Cognitive Processes

Background Introduction to Sleep

Research that looks at Circadian Rhythms, demonstrate that humans have a very regular pattern of sleeping and waking. Across the life-span, humans spend on average 8 hours in every 24 asleep. However, sleep itself is very complex and we go through rhythmic patterns that repeat the stages of sleep. The first study to provide evidence involving the complexity of Sleep was conducted by Dement and Kleitman (1957). They studied 9 adults (7 male; 2 female), five were studies intensively and the remaining 4 were used to confirm the results. The used laboratory experiments and observation. Participants slept individually in a quiet dark laboratory room after a normal days activity (except that alcohol and caffeine were avoided). Electrodes were connected near the eyes to register eye movement and on the scalp to measure brain activity during sleep objective measures of the stages of sleep. Participants were awoken at various times during the night by a loud doorbell noise and immediately reported into a recording device whether they had been dreaming and the content of the dream before any contact with the experimenter. Participants were not told about their brain or eye activity. Dreams were only counted if they were fairly detailed and coherent (vague impressions were not counted).
Study 1
Participants were awoken one of four different ways during either REM or non-REM sleep and were compared to see if they had been dreaming

Study 2
Participants were awoken either 5 or 15 minutes after REM sleep began and were asked to decide whether the duration of their dream was closer to 5 or 15 minutes. The length of the dream (measured by the number of words in their dream narratives was correlated to the during of REM sleep before being awoken. Participants were significantly correct in matching their dream length to the length of time they had shown REM sleep for both the 5 (45 out of 51 correct) and the 15 minute period (47 out of 60 correct). There was a significant correlation between the length of the dream narrative and the duration of REM sleep before awakening.

Study 3
Participants were awoken as son as one of four pattern of eye movements had occurred for 1 minute and were asked what they were dreaming about: Mainly vertical eye movements Mainly horizontal eye movements Both vertical & horizontal Little/no eye movements There was a strong association between the pattern of REM and the content of dream reports. The 3 vertical REM periods were associated with dreams of looking up and down (cliffs, ladders, basketball nets). Horizontal REM was reported as people throwing things. 10 periods of very little or no REM were associated with dreams of looking at fixed or distant objects.

Regardless of how participants were awoken, significantly more dreams were reported during REM than non-REM sleep. When participants failed to report a dream during REM this was during the early part of the night. There were some dreams reported during non-REM but these were within 8 minutes of REM sleep ending.


Video: Including Kleitmans original research:

General introduction to the Learning Process and Sleep

Research suggests that sleep plays an important role in memory, both before and after learning a new task. Lack of adequate sleep affects mood, motivation, judgment, and our perception of events.

Although there are some open questions about the specific role of sleep in forming and storing memories, the general consensus is that consolidated sleep throughout a whole night is optimal for learning and memory. In other words, healthy sleep is essential for optimal learning and memory function. Sleep, learning, and memory are complex phenomena that are not entirely understood. However, animal and human studies suggest that the quantity and quality of sleep have a profound impact on learning and memory. Research suggests that sleep helps learning and memory in two distinct ways: First, a sleep-deprived person cannot focus attention optimally and therefore cannot learn efficiently. Second, sleep itself has a role in the consolidation of memory, which is essential for learning new information.

Although the exact mechanisms are not known, learning and memory are often described in terms of three functions: 1. Acquisition refers to the introduction of new information into the brain. 2. Consolidation represents the processes by which a memory becomes stable. 3. Recall refers to the ability to access the information (whether consciously or unconsciously) after it has been stored. Each of these steps is necessary for proper memory function. Acquisition and recall occur only during wakefulness, but research suggests that memory consolidation may take place during sleep through the strengthening of the neural connections that form our memories. Although there is no consensus about how sleep makes this process possible, many researchers think that specific characteristics of brainwaves during different stages of sleep are associated with the formation of particular types of memory.

Main Topic: A good nights sleep might improve your school performance?
Sleep is a topic ear to the hearts of teenagers. Teens love sleep but do not seem to get enough of it. Mary Carskadon and others find that sleep is linked to the cognitive skills necessary for high school achievement. Students may think that they can perform well without adequate sleep, but is this true? The biological effects of sleep deprivation on cognitive processing and its resultant effects on educational performance area consequence of living in rapidly changing cultures. Carskadon (Frontline, 1999) reports that adolescents need 9 hours of sleep each night for optimal performance, challenging what students think they need. Surveys show that teens average about 7 hours of sleep each night, with about a quarter of teenagers getting 6 hours or less. The effects of sleep deprivation are numerous, including dangerous driving, depression, parent-child quarrels, increased sensitivity to stress, and impaired cognitive skills. Sleep deprivation is a general societal problem that affects everyone. A rapidly changing society has made so many things available to teens at night when they would be sleeping, such as the Internet, mobile phones, and jobs. In addition, many U. S. school districts with small budgets save money by using buses in shifts. First the buses service high schools, then middle schools, and then elementary schools. One result is very early high school start times for adolescents. Some school districts have switched to later school start times and report increased attention and higher grades. Adolescents face other obstacles to getting proper sleep. Hormonal changes beginning at puberty push teen circadian rhythms forward at night (Harvard Mental Health, 2005). Many sleep-deprived adolescents use the weekend to catch up on sleep. It may seem like a good strategy, but it further exasperates the problem during the school week. For example, if the brain gets signals that night-time is from 2 a.m. until 1.p.m. the next day on Friday and Saturday, it is hard to reset the sleep cycle on a Sunday night. Wolfson and Carskadon (1998) report sleep habits and grades from Sleep Habits Survey using 3120 high school students in Rhode Island. The survey was a self report from the teenagers and is uncontrolled, counting on participant honesty. Between ages 13 and 19 years, the amount of sleep decreased by as much as 50 minutes each night. Adolescents describing themselves as struggling academically reported sleeping an average of 25 minutes less each night than those reporting good grades. In addition, students with bad grades reported that they go to bed later on weekend nights than those with good grades. Experiments conducted in sleep labs show that sleep deprivation negatively affects many cognitive tasks, such as memory, verbal abilities and attention. For those insisting that 8 or more hours of sleep are unnecessary or packing schedules so full that adequate sleep is impossible, the evidence is not in your favour. One experiment by Forest and Godbout (2004) shows that even one night of sleep deprivation impairs immediate and delayed recall of stories more than the recall of those not sleep deprived. An additional experiment had subjects memorise a spatial

map of a library. A week later participants were tested to see if they remembered the map. Those getting adequate sleep performed significantly better than those which impaired sleep. In one other experiment, Randazzo et al. (1998) randomly assigned 16 children aged 10 to 14 to either received 11 hours or 5 hours of sleep for one night. Participants getting 11 hours of sleep showed significantly greater performance on tests of verbal creativity, verbal fluency and verbal flexibility than those getting 5 hours sleep. Since these experiments are conducted in sleep labs, it is important to consider the effects of sleep lab on performance. Participants are not sleeping in their own beds and often are outfitted with technology showing sleep stages in the brain. While this research shows that sleep is important, there are still many unanswered questions about the relationship between sleep and cognition. Recent research in investigating whether sleep is necessary for all cognitive tasks or just certain ones and if developmental level is important. It is still difficult to ascertain which stages of sleep might be involved (e.g. REM or NREM sleep).

Ted Talks: Dr. Stickgold studies the role of sleep and dreaming in learning and
memory processes.

Extension work:

The effects of extreme sleep deprivation and mental health

The incredible story of Peter Trip. In 1959 he took part in a 201-

hour experiment of sleep deprivation. For much of the wakeathon, he sat in a glass booth in Times Square, New York. After a few days he began to hallucinate, and for the last 66 hours the observing scientists and doctors gave him drugs to help him stay awake. This is his the first part of his story.

Video: Secrets of Sleep:

Carpenter, S. (2001) Sleep deprivation may be undermining teen health Monitor Staff, Volume 32, number 9. Carskadon, M. Inside the Teenage brain: ml Chen, A. (2012) Sleep Deprivation may affect academic performance: Durmer, J. S., and Dinges, D. F. (2005) Neurocognitive Consequences of Sleep Deprivation Seminars in Neurology, Volume 25, number 1, pages 117-130 Lowry, M. Dean, K. & Manders K. (2010) The Link Between Sleep Quantity and Academic Performance for the College Student

Roberts, R., Robers, C., Duong, H. (2009) Sleepless in adolescence: Prospective data on sleep deprivation, health and functioning Wolfson and Carskadon (1998) Sleep schedules and daytime functioning of adolescents. Child Development, Volume 69, No. 4, pages 875-887 8/pdf/wolfson_carskadon1998.pdf

Are you sleep deprived?


Ted Talks: Dr. Stickgold studies the role of sleep and dreaming in learning and memory Horizon: The secret of your biological clock: Video Jug: What is sleep deprivation? What are the effects of sleep deprivation? ABC News report: 21 volunteers deprived of sleep: the results Discovery Science: The Secrets of Sleep Part 1 of 5: