Small project grant 2021: Does intelligence predict resilience against the deleterious cognitive effects of sleep loss?

One of the 2021 small project grants has been granted to Leonie Balter, to support an experimental study on whether intelligence can predict resilience against the deleterious cognitive effects of sleep loss.

Sleep loss is common in today’s society. More than one third of the Western population report not getting enough sleep on a regular basis. Short sleep can have a major impact on cognitive processes that play important roles in daily life functioning, including attention, memory, and emotion control. However, individuals vary in how much they are affected by sleep loss. Based on cross-sectional findings, it has been suggested that higher intelligence can act as a buffer against insufficient sleep durations. As individuals with higher intelligence typically perform better on cognitive tests, cross-sectional studies are unable to determine whether those with higher intelligence are more resilient to the effects of sleep loss, or whether such findings are due to a higher performance to start off with.

The study uses data from two experimental studies of sleep loss. In both studies, participants complete the Raven’s progressive matrices as an indicator of intelligence, general sleep health measures, as well as a cognitive test battery to assess baseline cognitive abilities in attention, arithmetic ability, and working memory. Subsequently, participants are randomized to different sleep loss condition groups and afterwards they complete the same cognitive test battery. The study will provide fundamental knowledge on whether individuals with higher intelligence are more resilient to the cognitive effects of sleep loss or whether resilience seems higher due to overall better performance. It will also allow the assessment of the replicability of the results with slightly different sleep paradigms.

Leonie Balter is a postdoctoral fellow at Karolinska Institutet and Stockholm University. She obtained a dual PhD degree from the University of Amsterdam and University of Birmingham. Her research within psychoneuroimmunology investigates the neurocognitive consequences of immune and sleep disturbances. The central aim is to understand “who” is vulnerable for or protected against cognitive disturbances and psychiatric symptomatology, “why”, and “when”?