Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour
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Theme 3: Plasticity and Memory

Sleep and Memory

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The research of our group centers on the cognitive neuroscience of sleep and memory, using behavioral, endocrinological, pharmacological, electrophysiological and neuroimaging approaches in healthy subjects and psychiatric and neurological patients. We aim for basic and clinical insights into the cognitive and neural mechanisms underlying sleep and into the role of sleep for cognitive functioning. Applications of this research include treatment options and new biomarkers for psychiatric and neurological disorders and enhancement of cognitive functions in health and disease.

A major research line investigates different memory systems, from declarative memories for facts and episodes, to procedural memories for motor skills, to emotional memories for stressful experiences. We study neurobiological mechanisms underlying the consolidation of newly acquired memories during sleep, and how it is altered or impaired in psychiatric disorders.

A further major research line investigates cognitive processes occurring during sleep, including different kinds of dream experiences. In particular we are studying the phenomenon of lucid dreaming, i.e. the conscious insight into the dream state during ongoing sleep. The skill of lucid dreaming allows for the performance of specific tasks during sleep and is thus highly valuable for sleep research, however it also has several clinical and practical applications. We are particularly interested in the neural mechanism that give rise to such metacognitive processes during sleep.

Finally, we are interested in different 'brain hacking' strategies: We study if and how memory can be enhanced by different mnemonic techniques. We are exploring how the rare state of lucid dreaming could be more reliably induced e.g. by virtual reality and brain stimulation techniques. We are investigating strategies to reduce total sleep time by polyphasic sleep rhythms, i.e. the idea that regular naps during the day might be more efficient than single extended sleep periods.

Name: Martin Dresler
Telephone: +31-243610984
Fax: +49-32121091358
Visiting address:

Donders Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging (route 200)
Kapittelweg 29
6525 EN Nijmegen
The Netherlands

Postal address:

Donders Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging
P.O. Box 9101
6500 HB Nijmegen
The Netherlands

Key grants and prizes

  • 2018: Vidi grant by the Dutch Organization for Scientific Research (NWO): "Paradoxical sleep - towards a cognitive neuroscience of REM sleep".
  • 2014: Research grant by the Volkswagen Foundation: “Behavioral manipulation of emotional memory traces”
  • 2014: Research Award by Google: “A memory palace made of glass”
  • 2012: Veni grant by the Dutch Organization for Scientific Research (NWO): “Schemas and mnemonics: a cognitive neuroscience approach to memory skills”
  • 2012: Marie Curie Fellowship by the European Commission: “Schemas and mnemonics: a cognitive neuroscience approach to memory skills”
  • 2011: Research grant by the Volkswagen Foundation: “A differential view on neuroenhancement”
  • 2010: Philosophy and Neuroscience Award for research on the neurobiology of dreaming by the Barbara Wengeler Foundation
  • 2009: Postdoc fellowship by the Max Planck Society: “Memory systems and strategies

Selected publications on memory

  • Dresler M, Shirer WR, Konrad BN, Müller NC, Wagner IC, Fernández G, Czisch M, Greicius MD: Mnemonic Training Reshapes Brain Networks to Support Superior Memory. Neuron. 2017, 93: 1227-1235.

  • Genzel L, Spoormaker VI, Konrad BN, Dresler M. The role of rapid eye movement sleep for amygdala-related memory processing. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory 2015, 122: 110-121.

  • Dresler M, Konrad BN: Mnemonic expertise during wakefulness and sleep. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 2013, 36: 616-617.

Selected publications on dreaming

  • Dresler M, Wehrle R, Spoormaker VI, Holsboer F, Steiger A, Czisch M, Hobson JA: Neural correlates of insight in dreaming and psychosis. Sleep Medicine Reviews 2015, 22: 92-99.
  • Dresler M, Wehrle R, Spoormaker VI, Holsboer F, Steiger A, Koch S, Obrig H, Sämann PG, Czisch M: Neural correlates of dream lucidity obtained from contrasting lucid versus non- lucid REM sleep: a combined EEG/fMRI case study. Sleep 2012, 35: 1017-1020.
  • Dresler M, Koch S, Wehrle R, Spoormaker VI, Holsboer F, Steiger A, Sämann PG, Obrig H, Czisch M: Dreamed movement elicits activation in the sensorimotor cortex. Current Biology 2011, 21: 1833-1837.

Selected publications on other sleep topics

  • Dresler M, Spoormaker VI, Beitinger PA, Czisch M, Kimura M, Steiger A, Holsboer F: Neuroscience-driven discovery and development of sleep therapeutics. Pharmacology & Therapeutics 2014, 141: 300-334.
  • Cordi M, Ackermann S, Bes E, Hartmann F, Konrad BN, Genzel L, Pawlowski M, Steiger A, Schulz H, Rasch B, Dresler M: On lunar cycle effects on sleep and the file drawer problem. Current Biology 2014, 24: 549-550.
  • Ujma PP, Konrad BN, Genzel L, Bleifuss A, Simor P, Pótári A, Körmendi J, Gombos F, Steiger A, Bódizs R, Dresler M: Sleep spindles and intelligence: Evidence for a sexual dimorphism. Journal of Neuroscience 2014, 34: 16358-16368.


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Theme 4:
Natural Computing & Neurotechnology

Research Group
Sleep and Memory

Group members

Principal Investigator:
Dr. Martin Dresler

Postdoctoral researchers:
Dr. Boris Nikolai Konrad
Dr. Anastasia Mandiaruga
Dr. Nils Müller
Dr. Hong-Viet Ngo
Dr. Frederik Weber
Dr. Paul Zerr

PhD candidates:
Leonore Bovy
Teresa Campillo Ferrer
Çağatay Demirel
Mahdad Jafarzadeh
Mariana Pereira
Demetrius Ribeiro de Paula (external PhD candidate)
Leila Salvesen
Niloy Sikder
Sofia Tzioridou (external)
Zsófia Zavecz (external)

MSc students:
Shervin Bukhari
Soha Farboud
Jasmin Keller
Pedro Reis Oliveira
Amber van der Stam
Rute Teixeira Sequeira
Stergiani Lentzou

Research assistants:
Jarrod Gott
Emma Peters
Sofia Tzioridou
Tinke van Buijtene