Xi Yang funded to study sleep deprivation!

Xi Yang with a monkey in the background
Expiration Date: 
Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Clinical student Xi Yang has won a Betty Foster McCue Graduate Scholarship for Human Performance and Development from the Division of Graduate Studies. This award will fund some of the exciting research that Xi is doing on sleep deprivation.

Currently, Xi is working with Yufei Zhao to improve the fMRI workflow for the Oregon Sleep Lab. This project has pushed her to learn new neuroimaging analysis techniques and master programming skills. Armed with this expertise, Xi is planning on tackling the complex topic of sleep deprivation.

In her dissertation research, Xi will be using these advanced techniques to identify sleep deprivation in young adults using neural signatures. To simplify the topic for those who are not experts in neuroscience, she breaks it down as a metaphor:

Akin to an orchestra, different regions in the human brain “talk to each other” by exchanging dynamic information flow... Sleep deprivation interferes with the overall volume of the symphony (variability of global neural signals), and reduces synchronous performance in, say, the cello and violin sections of an orchestra (commonly linked neural networks), which underlines attention deficits, impaired motor perception and control.

Continuing the analogy, Xi explained that her role as the researcher is analogous to an audience after hearing two symphony performances, trying to figure out which of the two was performed by an orchestra still recovering from a late night. “Is it the performance of specific sections of that orchestra,” she pondered, “Or other general features of the symphony (volume, volume variability, synchronicity)?” To bring it back to sleep deprivation, the question is which neural signatures indicate sleep deprivation.

As any college student could tell you, sleep deprivation is pretty common in young adults, which is why this research is so important. It will help us get a better understanding of the impact of sleep deprivation, possibly uncovering the effect it has on neural vulnerability and susceptibility. In the long run, it will hopefully inform future neurobehavioral interventions for the effect of sleep-deprivation, identifying which areas to target first in prevention and treatment.

Xi Yang has received a lot of support and encouragement while working on this project. Yufei Zhao, mentioned at the beginning, has helped with the complex methodology of this study. Editing assistance has been provided by both Andrew Fridman and Melynda Casement, who along with Maureen Zalewski, recommended Xi for this award. Congratulations, Xi and best of luck going forward with this research!

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