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The research catalogue is an archive of ESRC-funded grants and outputs. Links, files and other content will no longer be maintained or updated after April 2014.

From incubation to sleep: Effects of sleep on problem solving

In the Sleep Scientific American Library (1989), Allan Hobson noted: "Not simply the absence of waking, sleep is a special activity of the brain, controlled by elaborate and precise mechanisms. Not simply a state of rest, sleep has its own specific positive functions." But what are these positive functions, how widely do they apply, and how critical are they for cognitive functioning? A primary role of sleep appears to be in generating problem solutions, consistent with anecdotal reports on scientific discoveries apparently precipitated by sleep. However, the extent to which sleep has a critical influence on problem solving and the extent to which advances in problem solution occur purely as the basis of an incubation period have not been adequately distinguished in previous research on problem solving, but understanding the role of each of these is essential for promoting creativity and effective problem solution. Our project will measure, and distinguish between, the effects of incubation and sleep on problem solving in a range of tasks, using behavioural and neurophysiological methods.