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At NeuroLab we make use of neuroimaging, genetic, behavioral and neuropsychological approaches to investigate the cognitive skills and neural mechanisms underlying the human ability to orient and navigate in spatial surroundings. We are interested in understanding the fundamental mechanisms related to spatial cognition throughout the life span (from early development to the elderly) and in the event of clinical conditions affecting the central nervous system. We have many projects that may interest you. Explore our website to find out more about our research!

------------------------------------------ OUR MOST RECENT PUBLICATION ------------------------------------------

THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN QUALITY OF SLEEP AND EMOTIONAL EMPATHY
Guadagni, V., Burles, F., Valera, S., Hardwicke-Brown, E., Ferrara, M., Campbell, T., Iaria, G. (2016). J Psychophisiol (In Press).

Sleep loss is known to severely disturb individuals’ mood and emotion processing. Here, we tested the hypothesis that quality of sleep is predictive of individuals’ performance on a task evaluating emotional empathy. We tested 34 healthy undergraduate students [19 males, mean (SD) age = 21.82 (3.26) years; mean (SD) education = 14.98 (1.91) years] recruited through the University of Calgary research participation system. We collected objective (actigraphy) and subjective (questionnaires and self-reports) sleep measures to characterize individuals’ sleep quality, and asked participants to solve a computerized emotional empathy task. We first performed a dimensionality reduction analysis on the sleep-related measures, which resulted in six principal components, and then ran a stepwise multiple regression analysis to investigate the sleep measures that best predicted participants’ scores on the emotional empathy task. We found that subjective sleep quality, together with sleep phase, best predicted participants’ empathic sensitivity to negative images while they explicitly evaluated the emotions of others (i.e. direct component of emotional empathy). Also, subjective sleep quality resulted to be the best predictor of participants’ arousal state in response to negative images, which is an implicit manifestation of their empathic experience (i.e. indirect component of emotional empathy). In both cases, lower subjective sleep quality was associated with lower empathic sensitivity to negative stimuli.¬† ¬†Finally, sleep duration best predicted average empathic responses to stimuli of all valences, with shorter sleep durations associated with lower average empathic responses. Our findings provide evidence of a significant relationship between individuals’ quality of sleep and their ability to share the emotions experienced by others. These findings may have important implications for individuals employed in professions requiring social interaction and empathic experience coupled with schedules that interfere with nighttime sleep.

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