The Virginia Association for Psychological Science has recognized a team of University of Mary Washington students for their research presentation about sleep deprivation. Katherine Hatton ’18, Erin Kaila ’18, Mollie Rhoades ’18 and Megan Jacobs ’19 received the Frederick B. Rowe Award for Best Undergraduate Paper for their presentation “The Relationship between Sleep Deprivation, Striatal Dopamine Levels, and Impulsivity.”
More than 170 students from Virginia colleges and universities gave an estimated 60 presentations. UMW had 31 students presenting research at the statewide conference last weekend in Roanoke.
The winning UMW team, under the tutelage of Associate Psychology Professor Hilary Stebbins, spent a year studying the relationship between sleep deprivation and impulsive actions.
“We saw a gap in the literature and we decided to fill it,” said Hatton, who was delighted with the award.
Using electrooculography (EOG), which detects eye blinks as a measure of dopamine, they also measured sleepiness and impulsivity in each participant. Research has shown that when people are deprived of sleep, they become impulsive. The UMW study found similar impulsive behavior in people who are inherently sleepy.
“Usually when we think about sleep deprivation, we think about people pulling ’all-nighters,’” said Stebbins, who notes that type of sleep deprivation is rare.
“This study shows that it’s not necessary to totally sleep deprive participants to find that they become more impulsive. It’s true of those who are inherently sleepy as well,” said Stebbins. “We also found evidence that dopamine is at least one reason why people become more impulsive when they are sleepy.”
In addition, the team was among 35 undergraduate presentations given at the University’s Psi Chi Symposium held on Wednesday and Thursday in the Hurley Convergence Center’s Digital Auditorium.