Researcher on Connectivity and Sleep
What is the mysterious feeling that we have we wake up, follows us when we are awake and disappears when we fall asleep? The conscious experience seeminglessly switches on during wakefulness and off during sleep, yet we have little idea of what it is. Do we retain some level of consciousness when we are asleep? Because each neuronal population performs a specialized task and conscious experience combines sensory features, motor action, memories, and emotions, consciousness is thought to arise from the interaction of multiple brain areas. What happens therefore to the interaction between brain regions when we lose consciousness by falling asleep?
Leading hypotheses in the field of neuroscience posit that this long-range interaction can only occur when the neuronal activity is synchronized between multiple brain areas. So, studying the degree of synchronization of neural activity during wakefulness and during sleep will reveal the changes in the interaction between brain regions and will allow us to better understand the mechanisms underlying conscious experience. This topic, at the convergence of neuroscience and philosophy, my two favorite fields of research, has generated incredible results in recent years and current findings have revolutionized our understanding of conscious experience and sleep, thanks to an unprecedented access of advanced neuroimaging and analysis techniques.
I consider myself lucky that I can be part of this exciting research field. I'm currently conducting an exciting research project in the Dr. Sydney Cash's lab at the Massachusetts General Hospital, investigating the changes in brain connectivity to understand where consciousness goes when we fall asleep.
I will be defending my thesis on "Sleep and Connectivity" to obtain the Ph.D. degree in the Aula of the VU University, Amsterdam on Tuesday 2 December 2014, at 1:45pm