Michael Scullin, PhD, founder of Baylor’s Sleep Neuroscience and Cognition Lab, has built a reputation as one of the nation’s leading sleep experts. Scullin’s wide range of research projects have helped people better understand the impact of sleep on creativity, memory and more.
He was awarded an National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER grant to propel his research, studying the impact of sleep habits on a student’s ability to learn complex STEM materials. Organic chemistry, widely regarded as one of the more difficult classes students take, will serve as the source for his research.
“If I let you sleep eight hours and told you the next morning that you’re going to hear an organic chemistry lecture and take a test, you might say, ‘I think it’s going to be really hard, but I’ll probably get a 70,’” Scullin said. “Conversely if I only let you sleep for, say, five hours and did the same thing, now you’re thinking you may perform at 50 percent. You’re selling yourself short. We want to take these concepts into the laboratory and see whether mild cutbacks on sleep have that same impact on that fear of difficult concepts, stress and how well they can actually learn and perform.”
Further steps in the study will examine achievement gaps based on gender and ethnicity as well as the possibilities that better sleep could narrow those gaps.
All NSF grants include an educational component requirement. The educational component of Scullin’s grant will be the formation of a permanent sleep exhibit at Baylor’s Mayborn Museum. The exhibit will feature an interactive kiosk with information about how sleep impacts the brain, and it will encourage visitors to “take the pledge” to get better sleep. Scullin hopes future funding will allow for a sleep science exhibit that travels to museums across the country.