The research of our group 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 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.
A further 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.
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.
Technical Capabilities and areas of expertise
Sleep lab with high-density EEG, ambulatory sleep recordings, combined EEG/fMRI, TMS, VR
Additional Descriptors, Keywords
Dreaming, Lucid Dreaming, Polyphasic Sleep, Mnemonic Training, Mood Disorders, Alzheimer’s Disease
Selected Publications in the 5 past years:
- Dresler M, Wehrle R, Spoormaker VI, Holsboer F, Steiger A, Czisch M, Hobson JA: Neural correlates of insight in dreaming and psychosis. Sleep Medicine Reviews 2015, 22: 92-99.
- Filevich E, Dresler M, Brick T, Kühn S: Metacognitive mechanisms underlying lucid dreaming. Journal of Neuroscience 2015, 35: 1082-1088.
- Rak M, Beitinger PA, Steiger A, Schredl M, Dresler M: Increased lucid dreaming frequency in narcolepsy. Sleep 2015, 38: 787-792.
- Dresler M, Wehrle R, Spoormaker VI, Holsboer F, Steiger A, Koch S, Obrig H, Sämann PG, Czisch M: Neural correlates of dream lucidity obtained from contrasting lucid versus non- lucid REM sleep: a combined EEG/fMRI case study. Sleep 2012, 35: 1017-1020.
- Dresler M, Koch S, Wehrle R, Spoormaker VI, Holsboer F, Steiger A, Sämann PG, Obrig H, Czisch M: Dreamed movement elicits activation in the sensorimotor cortex. Current Biology 2011, 21: 1833-1837.
Sleep and memory:
- Genzel L, Spoormaker VI, Konrad BN, Dresler M: REM sleep for amygdala-associated memory processing? Neurobiology of Learning and Memory 2015, 122: 110-121.
- Genzel L, Kroes M, Dresler M, Battaglia F: Light sleep vs. slow wave sleep in memory consolidation: A question of global vs. local processes? Trends in Neurosciences 2014, 37: 10-19.
- Dresler M, Konrad BN: Mnemonic expertise during wakefulness and sleep. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 2013, 36: 616-617.
- Genzel L, Kiefer T, Renner L, Wehrle R, Kluge M, Grözinger M, Steiger A, Dresler M: Sex and modulatory menstrual cycle effects on sleep related memory consolidation. Psychoneuroendocrinology 2012, 37: 987-998.
- Dresler M, Kluge M, Pawlowski M, Schüssler P, Steiger A, Genzel L: A double dissociation of memory impairments in major depression. Journal of Psychiatric Research 2011, 45: 1593-1599.
Sleep and intelligence:
- Ujma PP, Konrad BN, Gombos F, Simor P, Pótári A, Genzel L, Pawlowski M, Steiger A, Bódizs R, Dresler M: The sleep EEG spectrum is a sexually dimorphic marker of general intelligence. Scientific Reports 2017, 7: 18070.
- Pótári A, Ujma PP, Konrad BN, Genzel L, Simor P, Körmendi J, Gombos F, Steiger A, Dresler M, Bódizs R: Age-related changes in sleep EEG are attenuated in highly intelligent individuals. NeuroImage 2016, 146: 554-560.
- Ujma PP, Bódizs R, Simor P, Stintzing J, Konrad BN, Genzel L, Pawlowski M, Steiger A, Dresler M: Nap sleep spindle correlates of intelligence. Scientific Reports 2015, 5: 17159.
- Ujma PP, Konrad BN, Genzel L, Bleifuss A, Simor P, Pótári A, Körmendi J, Gombos F, Steiger A, Bódizs R, Dresler M: Sleep spindles and intelligence: Evidence for a sexual dimorphism. Journal of Neuroscience 2014, 34: 16358-16368.
- Marisch C, Genzel L, Steiger A, Dresler M: Creativity and Sleep. Somnologie 2016, 20: 8-15.
- Cordi M, Ackermann S, Bes E, Hartmann F, Konrad BN, Genzel L, Pawlowski M, Steiger A, Schulz H, Rasch B, Dresler M: On lunar cycle effects on sleep and the file drawer problem. Current Biology 2014, 24: 549-550.
- Dresler M, Spoormaker VI, Beitinger PA, Czisch M, Kimura M, Steiger A, Holsboer F: Neuroscience-driven discovery and development of sleep therapeutics. Pharmacology & Therapeutics 2014, 141: 300-334.
Key Publications of the Laboratory: