Research Statement: I investigate the link between sleep and cognition in primates
Humans are a remarkable species. We live in large social networks, persist in inhospitable places, fashion complex tools, and communicate using language. While we exhibit many morphological and behavioral differences to other primates – our cognitive capacity likely played a crucial role in our success. My research investigates the ecology and evolution of primate sleep, and specifically tests the hypothesis that human sleep is a critical factor underlying our cognitive success. I believe the effects of sleep on cognition in our lineage were profound. For example, in humans, sleep is critical for working memory, attention, decision-making, and visual-motor performance, yet how sleep affects such processes remains unknown for most non-human primates. To study primate sleep, I use pioneering, non-invasive technology to study human and non-human primates with a broad phylogenetic scope. In addition, I engage with the emerging field of evolutionary medicine by using my findings to understand human sleep disorders within an evolutionary framework. The ultimate goal of my research is to further our understanding of human evolution.