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World’s Largest Sleep Study Launched By Western Neuroscientist

A neuroscientist at Western University has launched the largest sleep and cognition study in the world, in an effort to learn the effects of sleep and sleep deprivation on the brain.

Neuroscientist Adrian Owen, with Western’s Brain and Mind Institute, says it is well known that sleep disruption affects people in different ways, but “there’s surprisingly little research into exactly how our brains deal with these sleep deficits.”

“Many of us are working more erratic hours and sleeping less, while the pace of our lives seems to be accelerating,” said Owen in a news release. “We have the opportunity in this study to learn far more about the brain’s response to sleep than we have ever had before. And what we learn ultimately has the potential to change how millions of people go about their daily lives.”

The study will be conducted entirely online at on a website that has been designed by neuroscientists at Cambridge Brain Sciences.  The study will track how the participants sleep over a three-day period, while conducting scientific tests on brain function. Participants will also be able to compare their performance and sleep values with other volunteers. The sleep and cognition data will then be analyzed and compiled after six months.

Owen expects this study will draw hundreds of thousands of participants from around the world.

“The Internet has provided us with this unprecedented opportunity to involve the public in scientific research – research that can draw out a gold-mine of sleep and brain data we’ve never before had access to,” said Owen.

According to Western, other sleep studies that have been conducted in the past have not been as rigorous as this one, and they have not examined links between cognition and sleep.

Owen said there are a number of essential questions about sleep that researchers hope to tackle in the study, such as what specifically happens in different regions of our brains when we sleep or don’t sleep?

“We all know you shouldn’t drive if you’re too tired — but should you decide to get married, buy a car or design a bridge if you’ve been up half the night? And if there is an impact, is it the same across all ages and jobs or is it different for seniors, young moms, students, shift-workers, equipment operators?” he said.

The online study can be found by clicking here.