The Brilliance of Sleep
Matt Walker in Conversation with Amy Standen
Wednesday February 27th 7:30pm at the Herbst Theatre
Scientists have long wondered why we power down our brains and enter into a sleeping state then spending countless hours in light dreamless slumber. Professor Matt Walker in the Sleep and Neuroimaging Laboratory within the Department of Psychology at U.C. Berkeley and his team have found compelling evidence for the purpose of this kind of sleep suggesting that it can solidify newly learned memories by rewiring the architecture of the brain. Bursts of electrical impulse brain waves known as sleep spindles may be networking between the brain's hippocampus – with its limited storage capacity – and the prefrontal cortex's – the storage area– effectively clearing the way for new learning. His team has also found evidence that sleep can associate and integrate new memories together, performing a kind of sleep-dependent alchemy. Beyond learning and memory, Dr. Walker’s lab has discovered recent findings that sleep can refresh emotional brain reactivity, effectively ironing out our prior waking concerns and allowing for well rested rational next day decisions. Sleep benefits us not only in learning and memory but also in many other ways that improve our health. Dr. Walker will be in conversation with Amy Standen from QUEST, an award-winning multimedia science and environment series created by KQED, San Francisco. Her work has been recognized by the National Association of Public Radio News Directors and Northern California's Society of Professional Journalists. Standen has been a producer on Pulse of the Planet, editor of Terrain Magazine and an editor at Salon, and a "roving reporter" for KALW's Philosophy Talk also contributing frequently to NPR.