UNIVERSITY researchers are to carry out their first sleep study to find out how a lack of sleep affects a person’s ability to learn.

The Department of Psychology at Royal Holloway, University of London, in Egham will be carrying out overnight sleep studies in a sleep laboratory to identify which stages of sleep are critical for memory and learning.

The sleep lab, based in the department, consists of two bedrooms with specialist equipment that allows academics to record electrical brain activity (EEG) in sleeping participants.

The research is funded by the ESRC, and will focus on asking volunteers to learn to read in a completely new and unfamiliar alphabet. They will then be deprived of sleep the following night and then be tested to see how well they have learnt the unfamiliar alphabet.

Lead researcher, Dr Jakke Tamminen said: “We’re testing to see how critical sleep is after learning, and how it applies to learning to read.”

A second experiment, using new volunteers, will first deprive participants of sleep for one night and then they will be taught the unfamiliar alphabet.

Dr Tamminen added: “So in the second experiment the volunteers are learning in a sleep deprived state, and we’re interested to see how learning is impaired by this.

“The purpose of these current experiments is to establish whether sleep is critical for learning and generalisation of that newly learned information.

“When both groups of participants come back to be tested we importantly not only test them on the words that they were reading in the training session, but also on words that they haven’t been asked to read before, but using the same alphabet. This allows us to see if they have learned the new alphabet well enough to read words they have never seen before.”

The researchers are currently looking for participants to take part in the studies at the Egham campus.

Volunteers will be paid for their time and must be between the ages of 18 to 24 and be native speakers of English.To register your interest, please contact Benedetta Cevoli via email: