Associate Professor, Psychology
We each spend about a third of our lives sleeping. Why? As a cognitive neuroscientist, Dr. Erin Wamsley studies this relatively uncharted territory, exploring the function of sleep, the brain basis of dreaming, and the role of resting states in memory consolidation more broadly.
Dr. Wamsley began her academic career as a liberal arts student at Guilford College in North Carolina, where she double-majored in psychology and philosophy. She then went on to complete her doctoral studies at the City University of New York, where she spent long hours working in a sleep lab in Harlem, teaching undergraduates at City College, and failing to get enough sleep herself. After obtaining her Ph.D. in 2007, Dr. Wamsley began a postdoctoral fellowship in the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, where she was later promoted to instructor of psychiatry. During this time, Dr. Wamsley primarily focused on her research, authoring more than 30 research articles, reviews, and book chapters.
Joining the Psychology department and Neuroscience major at Furman in 2014, Dr. Wamsley is returning to her liberal arts roots and a love of undergraduate education. She looks forward to working with students in the classroom, in the laboratory, and everywhere in between. She also keeps busy with a husband, a toddler, and two cats (named after features of the sleep EEG: “Ripple” and “Spindle”).
Dr. Wamsley is always looking for motivated students to work with her on research in the The Furman Sleep Lab.
- Postdoctoral Fellowship, Harvard Medical School
- Ph.D., City University of New York
- B.A., Guilford College
Dr. Wamsley's research concerns the function of "offline" states of sleep and rest, and especially their role in the consolidation of memory. In her laboratory, research questions include:
- What happens to a memory after initial learning? One arm of Dr. Wamsley's research explores the hypothesis that recent memories are actively processed in the sleeping brain, as new learning is "consolidated" over time.
- What is happening in the brain during sleep? To better understand the brain dynamics that support memory consolidation, Dr. Wamsley's research takes advantage of innovative methods in EEG.
- How does the sleeping brain generate dream experiences? Dr. Wamsley's past research suggests that dreams may result in part from the reactivation of recent memories in the sleeping brain.
To learn more, browse the publications below, take a course with Dr. Wamsley, or stop by the The Furman Sleep Lab and see what it's all about!
- Wang, S. Y., Baker, K. C., Culbreth, J. L., Tracy, O., Arora, M., Liu, T., Morris, S., Collins, M. B., & Wamsley, E. J. (2021). ‘Sleep-dependent’ memory consolidation? Brief periods of post-training rest and sleep provide an equivalent benefit for both declarative and procedural memory. Learning & Memory, 28(6), 195–203. https://doi.org/10.1101/lm.053330.120;
- Wamsley, E. J., & Summer, T. (2020). Spontaneous Entry into an “Offline” State during Wakefulness: A Mechanism of Memory Consolidation? Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 1–21.;
- Collins, M. B., & Wamsley, E. J. (2020). Effect of postlearning meditation on memory consolidation: Level of focused attention matters. Learning & Memory (Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y.), 27(6), 250–253. https://doi.org/10.1101/lm.051151.119;
- Zhang, J., & Wamsley, E. J. (2019). EEG predictors of dreaming outside of REM sleep. Psychophysiology, 56(7), e13368.;
- Wamsley, E. J., & Stickgold, R. (2019). Dreaming of a learning task is associated with enhanced memory consolidation: Replication in an overnight sleep study. Journal of Sleep Research, 28(1), e12749. https://doi.org/10.1111/jsr.12749;
- Wamsley, E. J. (2019). Memory Consolidation during Waking Rest. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 23(3), 171–173. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tics.2018.12.007;
- Humiston, G., & Wamsley, E. J. (2018). A Brief Period of Eyes-Closed Rest Enhances Motor Skill Consolidation. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, 155, 1–6.;
- Murphy, M., Stickgold, R., Parr, M. E., Callahan, C., & Wamsley, E. J. (2018). Recurrence of task-related electroencephalographic activity during post-training quiet rest and sleep. Scientific Reports, 8(1), 5398. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-23590-1;
- Graveline, Y. M., & Wamsley, E. J. (2017). The impact of sleep on novel concept learning. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, 141, 19–26. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nlm.2017.03.008;
- Brokaw, K., Tishler, W., Manceor, S., Hamilton, K., Gaulden, A., Parr, E., & Wamsley, E. J. (2016). Resting state EEG correlates of memory consolidation. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, 130, 17–25. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nlm.2016.01.008;
- Nguyen, N.D., Tucker, M.A., Stickgold, R. & Wamsley, E.J. (2013). Overnight sleep enhances hippocampus-dependent aspects of spatial memory. SLEEP.
- Wamsley, E.J., Tucker, M.A., Shinn, A., Ono, K., McKinley, S., Ely, A., Goff, D., Stickgold, R. & Manoach, D. (2012). Reduced sleep spindles and spindle coherence in schizophrenia: Mechanisms of impaired memory consolidation? Biological Psychiatry 71(2), 154-161. Full text on PubMed Central: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3561714
- Wamsley, E.J., Emberger, K., Djonlagic, I., Babkes, L. & Stickgold, R. (2010). Cognitive replay of visuomotor learning at sleep onset. SLEEP, 33(1), 59-68. Full text on PubMed Central: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2802248/
- Wamsley, E.J. & Stickgold, R. (2010). A brief nap is beneficial for human route learning: The role of initial skill level and EEG spectral power. Learning & Memory, 17(7), 332-336. Full text on PubMed Central: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2904102/
- Tamminen, J., Payne, J.D., Wamsley, E.J., Stickgold, R. & Gaskell, M. (2010). Sleep spindle activity is associated with the integration of new memories and existing knowledge. Journal of Neuroscience, 30(43), 14356-60. Full text on PubMed Central: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2989532
- Wamsley, E.J. & Stickgold, R. (2010). Dreaming and offline memory processing. Current Biology, 20(23), R1010-R1013. Full text on PubMed Central: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3557787
- Wamsley, E.J. & Antrobus, J.S. (2009). The expression of trace conditioning during non-REM sleep and its relation to subjective experience. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, 92(3), 283-291.
- Payne, J.D., Schacter, D.L., Propper, R., Huang, L., Wamsley, E.J., Tucker, M.A., Walker, M., & Stickgold, R. (2009). The role of sleep in false memory formation. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, 92(3), 327-334. Full text on PubMed Central: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2789473/