Warming skin to improve memory

Raised of $1,950 Goal
Ended on 12/31/14
Campaign Ended
  • $325
  • 17%
  • Finished
    on 12/31/14

About This Project

Sleep is beneficial for memory formation. Consequently, those with poor sleep quality (e.g., older adults) also have increased forgetfulness. Improving sleep quality using a known mechanism -- mild skin warming -- should improve memory formation in adults. Enhancing sleep by natural means (a water-infused skin-warming suit!) to enhance memory formation could impact the lives of countless older adults who suffer from memory deficits.

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What is the context of this research?

Information learned while awake is transferred from short-term to long-term memory during sleep. The Slow Wave Sleep (SWS) stage is particularly important for memory formation, as it initiates brain synchronicity that enhances plasticity and information transfer. Unfortunately, with aging comes a characteristic shortening of SWS. It is therefore assumed that age-related changes in sleep contribute to age-related memory deficits. Early sleep studies consistently found that a simple mechanism -- skin warming -- can induce longer sleep and greater amounts of SWS in both younger and older adults. In fact, skin must only be warmed by about .5 degrees F to have beneficial effects on sleep. If sleep is improved using this mechanism, memory formation should be improve as well.

What is the significance of this project?

There are very few ways to behaviorally improve sleep quality sleep. Age-related sleep deficits are often the product of physiological changes, and therefore most sleep enhancers are pharmacological (e.g., sleeping pills). Unfortunately, these sleep enhancers do not provide a "natural" night of sleep, meaning sleep stage proportions are not ideal for the overnight formation of memories. It follows, then, that a non-pharmacological sleep enhancer is needed. The proposed project utilizes a harmless and simple mechanism to improve sleep, and we feel it is a promising option for relieving older adults of sleep burdens and, in effect, deficits in sleep-dependent memory formation.

What are the goals of the project?

Goal 1: Replicate work to show sleep is deepened by mild skin warming in younger and older adults.Goal 2: Create a within-subject project where memory formation is compared after a deepened night of sleep (via mild skin warming) and after a night without warmed skin.We hypothesize that enhanced sleep will induce enhanced memory formation. __________________________________________

Previous uses of the high-density tube suit:

Sleep studies: Raymann, et al., 2005; Raymann, et al., 2007; Raymann, et al., 2008; Fronczek et al., 2008a, Fronczek et al., 2008b

Non-sleep studies: Minson et al., 2002; Shibaski et al., 2002; Kanosue et al., 2002; Pierzga et al., 2003; Jackson et al., 2003; Kamijo et al., 2003; Low et al., 2007; Kenny & Jay, 2007; Hodges et al., 2009


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How do we plan to warm skin? Experimental skin temperature manipulation requires quick and efficient temperature regulation. Methods like blanket/mattress heating are not ideal, as they alter core temperature (a confounder) and do not allow for a quick dissipation of heat. The most effective way to warm skin is through a water-infused garment. These two-piece suits include a high-density of small tubes through which water can flow. Water temperature is first manipulated in a precision-temperature water bath and then circulated through the suit. Using this technique, water can be heated to quickly and safely alter skin temperature. We intend to purchase high-quality suits, identical to what have been used in the past. We will initially test young adults with a small suit, but as we ultimately intend to include a range of populations (e.g., older adults), we will need a larger suit. Funding from experiment.com will purchase this larger tube suit.

Meet the Team

Janna Mantua
Janna Mantua
Doctoral Candidate


University of Massachusetts, Amherst
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Team Bio

My friends know way too much about sleep...thanks to me. If you ask them to describe me, they might admit that I'm a little obsessed with my research. I take it as a compliment. Three questions drive me and drive my work:1. When you sleep, everything you did during the day is repeated in your brain -- sometimes in the same order and at the same speed, and sometimes not -- which likely plays into sleep-dependent memory formation. What are the underlying mechanisms?2. Recovery naps may be different from habitual naps. One may be damaging, and the other may be beneficial. How and why?3. Morningness/eveningness tendencies may rely on differing sensitivity thresholds to sleep pressure. What determines this threshold?Help me answer question #1...!

Additional Information

What's going on here? You're looking at the set up used to induce skin warming. 1. Three temperature leads (bottom left) are measuring skin temperature in real-time2. A forehead lead (top right) is estimating core temperature via extrapolation3. A water circulating bath (bottom right) is heating and maintaining water temperature before circulating it through tubes in the suit4. A portable sleep recording device (top left) is monitoring sleep quality and sleep stages.

Project Backers

  • 8Backers
  • 17%Funded
  • $325Total Donations
  • $40.63Average Donation
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