Research Themes and Collaborations

Sleep, memory consolidation, and generalisation

One of the most critical challenges in learning and memory is the extraction of context-independent general knowledge from a large amount of individual experiences and episodic memories. In collaboration with Kathy Rastle, Matt Davis, and Jo Taylor we have used language learning paradigms to uncover some of the principles that govern this type of memory formation. In short, we have argued that generalisation can be achieved using different cognitive strategies, and that memory consolidation is key to this type of learning.

At the moment we are engaged in a project using learning of artificial orthographies to reveal the impact of sleep on generalisation. This project is a collaboration with Kathy Rastle.

This line of research has been funded by the ESRC and the British Academy.

Read more about this research:

Tamminen, J., & Davis, M. H., & Rastle, K. (2015). From specific examples to general knowledge in language learning. Cognitive Psychology, 79, 1-39.

Tamminen, J., & Davis, M. H., Merkx, M., & Rastle, K. (2012). The role of memory consolidation in generalisation of new linguistic information. Cognition, 125, 107-112.

Sleep and eyewitness memory

With David Morgan and Laura Mickes, we are investigating the impact of sleep on eyewitness memory. This line of research includes experiments using eyewitness identification paradigms, as well as experiments focusing on eyewitnesses’ susceptibility to misinformation about the crime they witnessed before sleeping. This work is funded by a Royal Holloway doctoral studentship awarded to David.

Read more about this research:

Morgan, D. P., Tamminen, J., & Mickes, L. (accepted). The impact of sleep on eyewitness identifications. Royal Society Open Science. Registered report: Stage 1 submission accepted.

Sleep and memory consolidation in adolescence

Adolescence is a time of profound change in many domains, including sleep. There are changes in sleep architecture, as well as the amount of sleep, due to children’s internal clock shifting forward by 2-3 hours as they enter adolescence. With Jessica Dyson and Jessie Ricketts we are exploring the implications of truncated sleep during school nights for memory consolidation processes. This work is funded by a doctoral studentship awarded to Jessica by the Waterloo Foundation and Royal Holloway.

Read more about this research:

Kuula, L., Tamminen, J. Makkonen, T., Merikanto, I., Räikkönen, K., Pesonen, A-K. (2019). Higher sleep spindle activity is associated with fewer false memories in adolescent girls. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, 157, 96-105.

Sleep, memory consolidation, and lexical integration

How does the mind integrate newly acquired information with the rich stores of knowledge we already possess? After all, a piece of new information is only useful if you understand how it relates to everything else you already know about the world. We have addressed this problem by looking at how newly learned words begin to engage with existing familiar words, both in terms of their phonology and of their meaning. The emergence of such interactions is diagnostic of new connections having been made between new and old knowledge. Our collaborators in this body of work include Gareth Gaskell, Penny Lewis, Matt Lambon Ralph, Jessica Payne, and Robert Stickgold. This work has been funded by the ESRC.

Read more about this research:

Tamminen, J., Lambon Ralph, M. A., & Lewis, P. A. (2013). The role of sleep spindles and slow oscillations in integrating new information in semantic memory. Journal of Neuroscience, 33, 15376-15381.

Tamminen, J., Payne, J. D., Stickgold, R., Wamsley, E. J., & Gaskell, M. G. (2010). Sleep spindle activity is associated with integration of new memories and existing knowledge. Journal of Neuroscience, 30, 14356-14360.

Impact of music on memory

Music has been shown to facilitate memory in both healthy populations and in patients suffering from various forms of dementia. In collaboration with Victoria Williamson at the Music Department at University of Sheffield, we have worked towards understanding how music affects word learning, and specifically how it helps to integrate newly learned words in the existing mental lexicon. This work has been funded by the British Academy and the Experimental Psychology Society.

Read more about this research:

Tamminen, J., Rastle, K., Darby, J., Lucas, R., & Williamson, V. J. (2017). The impact of music on learning and consolidation of novel words. Memory, 25, 107-121.