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SCL History

The Sleep and Cognition Lab, originally called the Cognitive Neuroscience Lab was established in 1997 with a staff of two - the Principal Investigator and a research assistant fresh out of his 'A' Levels. From these modest beginnings, we have grown to have about 20-members, with many fulfilling collaborations and affiliations as well as several well-placed alumni.

From 1997 to the end of 2003, the CNL performed functional imaging research in the domain of bilingualism and language processing. It was our goal to elucidate the neural basis for differentiating persons adept at learning a second language from cognitively-matched persons who have difficulty doing this.

The lab switched focus to studying sleep deprivation at the end of 2003. We investigated the mechanisms underlying neurobehavioral changes occurring after a night of total sleep deprivation. We contributed numerous empirical studies examining attention, processing capacity, distractor inhibition, decision making and working memory using a mixture of behavioural tasks and fMRI.

Concurrent with the work on sleep deprivation, the lab was interested in documenting the trajectory of cognitive changes together with shifts in brain structure and function in healthy Singaporeans above 55 years of age. We collaborated with Helen Zhou’s lab to jointly work on characterizing functional connectivity shifts in older adults. Alongside this effort we have jointly probed dynamic functional connectivity in sleep deprived as well as older persons seeking to understand the contributions of arousal state to functional connectivity studies.

In 2014, the lab took its work on sleep deprivation into a more translational realm with our 'Need for Sleep Studies' on adolescents. Working with June Lo (who now has her own lab) and Joshua Gooley, we mapped out cognitive performance following exposure to multi-night sleep restriction using different sleep timings, some of which incorporated naps. These studies, conducted over 5 years have greatly added to our understanding of which aspects of cognition are affected (or not!) with multi-night sleep restriction over two cycles. Other efforts to study adolescent sleep include investigations on starting school later and sleep education. We have also been extremely active in advocating for sleep as a key component in improving health and wellbeing.

In 2018, we began to use consumer sleep trackers to evaluate population sleep patterns. In 2019 we started combining sleep and activity tracking with smartphone based apps to better understand sleep and its effects on cognition, health and wellbeing.

Given our tilt towards large scale data analysis with devices and the associated analytic methods that have still to be developed, a decision was made to move the lab to NUS where ties with multi-disciplinary talent are easier to forge and grow. To mark this shift, and to more clearly mark our focus on sleep, the lab has been renamed ‘Sleep and Cognition Lab’.