Faculty Profile

Robert Stickgold, PhD

Robert Stickgold, PhD
Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School
Professor, Department of Psychiatry, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

Administrative Title(s)

See publications


Center for Sleep and Cognition
330 Brookline Avenue/FD-861
Boston, MA 02215

Email robert_stickgold@hms.harvard.edu

Society Memberships

Sleep Research Society
Society for Neuroscience
Cognitive Neuroscience Society
American Psychological Association

Research Unit(s)

Center for Sleep and Cognition, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

Research Interests

My research seeks to describe the nature of cognition during sleep, and to explain the role of sleep in memory and emotional processing. My studies of sleep and memory have provided definitive evidence demonstrating the importance of sleep in learning and memory consolidation. Work in my laboratory and in collaboration has presented the first clear demonstrations that:

1) some forms of memory consolidation are absolutely dependent on post-training sleep
2) access to associative memories is altered during REM sleep
3) memory stabilization and enhancement can both occur "off-line," but in different wake-sleep states
4) stabilized memories in humans can be made labile by reactivation, and subsequently weakened through interference
5) in some cases, naps can provide as much benefit as a full night of sleep
6) specific sleep-dependent consolidation is absent in chronic, medicated schizophrenics and in cocaine addicts in withdrawal.
7) resting state brain activity following training on a memory task can predict subsequent sleep-dependent memory consolidation and, separately, correlate with thinking about the task

More recently we have been studying:

1) the role of sleep in probabilistic learning and declarative memory
2) cutting edge techniques for quantitative EEG analyses of memory processing
3) neural network models of sleep-dependent memory processing

Our studies of dreaming have made important breakthroughs in this classically difficult field, and have provided the first demonstrations that:

1) episodic memories are not replayed in dreams
2) hypnagogic dreams are constructed without the help of the hippocampally mediated episodic memory system
3) two hours of sleep alters the content of hypnagogic dreams from nearly veridical replay of recent events to semantically associated imagery
4) dreaming about a recently learned memory task predicts post-sleep task improvement

Our paper on hypnagogic dreaming published in Science was the first paper in that journal focusing on dreaming since 1968.


Ina Djonlagic MD 2003-2005
Jeffrey Ellenbogen, MD 2005-2007
Erin J. Wamsley, PhD 2008-present
Maryann Deak, MD  2009-present
Rebecca Allen MD  2014-present
Bengi Baran, PhD  2014-present
Jon Chamberlain, BA  2012-present
Roy Cox, PhD  2014-present
Cathy McCall, MD   2015-present
Michael Murphy, MD, PhD 2014-present
Anna Schapiro, PhD  2015-present


Francis Neuhaus
Eric Shooter
Stephen Kuffler
J. Allan Hobson

Research Funding

NIH/NIMH R01MH048832      PI
“The evolution of memories across wake and sleep”
NIH/NIMH R01MH092638      Co-PI
“State-dependent memory processing in schizophrenia" 
NIH/NIMH R21MH098171      Co-PI
“EEG signatures of offline memory reactivation and consolidation"
NIH/NIMH R01MH107579      Co-Investigator
"Sleep spindles in early course schizophrenia and first-degree relatives"


Mind, Brain, and Behavior 980a
Conscious States: Waking, Sleeping, and Dreaming

Selected Publications

Gregory MD, Robertson EM, Manoach, DS, Stickgold R.  Thinking about a task is associated with increased connectivity in regions activated by task performance.
Brain Connect. 2015 Dec 9. [PMID: 26650337]

Manoach DS, Pan JQ, Purcell SM, Stickgold R. Reduced Sleep Spindles in Schizophrenia: A Treatable Endophenotype That Links Risk Genes to Impaired Cognition?
Biol Psychiatry. 2015 Oct 14. [PMID: 26602589]

Maski K, Holbrook H, Manoach DS, Hanson E, Kapur K, Stickgold R. Sleep Dependent Memory Consolidation in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Sleep. 2015 Dec 1;38(12):1955-63. [PMID: 26194566]

Djonlagic I, Guo M, Matteis P, Carusona A, Stickgold R, Malhotra A. First night of CPAP: impact on memory consolidation attention and subjective experience.
Sleep Med. 2015 Jun;16(6):697-702. [PMID: 25953301]

Barsky MM, Tucker MA, Stickgold R. REM sleep enhancement of probabilistic classification learning is sensitive to subsequent interference.
Neurobiol Learn Mem. 2015 Jul;122:63-8. [PMID: 25769506]

Manoach DS, Stickgold R. Sleep, memory, and schizophrenia.
Sleep Med. 2015 May;16(5):553-4. [PMID: 25747334]

Astill RG, Piantoni G, Raymann RJ, Vis JC, Coppens JE, Walker MP, Stickgold R, Van Der Werf YD, Van Someren EJ. Sleep spindle and slow wave frequency reflect motor skill performance in primary school age children.
Front Hum Neurosci. 2014 Nov 11;8:910. [PMID: 25426055].

Payne JD, Kensinger EA, Wamsley EJ, Spreng RN, Alger SE, Gibler K, Schacter DL, Stickgold R. Napping and the selective consolidation of negative aspects of scenes.
Emotion. 2015 Apr;15(2):176-86. [PMID: 25706830]

Stamm AW, Nguygen ND, Seicol BJ, Fagan A, Oh A, Drumm M, Lundt M, Stickgold R, Wamsley EJ. Negative reinforcement impairs overnight memory consolidation.
Learn Mem. 2014 Oct 15;21(11):591-6. [PMID: 25320351]

Manoach DS, Demanuele C, Wamsely EJ, Vangel M, Montrose DM, Miewald J, Kupfer D, Buysse D, Stickgold R, Keshavan MS.  Sleep spindle deficits in antipsychotic-naive early course schizophrenia and in non-psychotic first-degree relatives.
Front Hum Neurosci. 2014 Oct 7;8:762. [PMID: 25339881]

Sano A, Pickard RW, Stickgold R. Quantitative analysis of wrist electrodermal activity during sleep.
Int J Psychophysiol. 2014 Dec;94(3):382-9. [PMID: 25286449]

Gregory MD, Agam Y, Selvadurai C, Nagy A, Vangel M, Tucker M, Robertson EM, Stickgold R, Manoach DS. Resting state connectivity immediately following learning correlates with subsequent sleep-dependent enhancement of motor task performance.
Neuroimage. 2014 Nov 15;102 Pt 2:666-73. [PMID: 25173415]

Wamsley E, Donjacour CE, Scammell TE, Lammers GJ, Stickgold R. Delusional confusion of dreaming and reality in narcolepsy. Sleep. 2014 Feb 1;37(2):419-22. [PMID: 24501437]

Djonlagic I, Guo M, Matteis P, Carusona A, Stickgold R, Malhotra A. Untreated sleep-disordered breathing: links to aging-related decline in sleep-dependent memory consolidation.
PLoS One. 2014 Jan 29;9(1):e85918. [PMID: 24489679]

Wamsley EJ, Shinn AK, Tucker MA, Ono KE, McKinley SK, Ely AV, Goff DC, Stickgold R, Manoach DS. The effects of eszopiclone on sleep spindles and memory consolidation in schizophrenia: a randomized placebo-controlled trial.
Sleep. 2013 Sep 1;36(9):1369-76. [PMID: 23997371]

Nguyen ND, Tucker MA, Stickgold R, Wamsley EJ. Overnight sleep enhances hippocampus-dependent aspects of spatial memory.
Sleep. 2013 Jul 1;36(7):1051-1057.  [PMID: 23814342]

Stickgold R. Early to bed: how sleep benefits children's memory.
Trends Cogn Sci. 2013 Jun;17(6):261-2. [PMID: 23659771]

DeWolfe JL, Malow B, Huguenard J, Stickgold R, Bourgeois B, Holmes GL.
Sleep and epilepsy: A summary of the 2011 Merritt-Putnam Symposium.
Epilepsy Curr. 2013 Jan;13(1):42-9. [PMID: 23447740]

Stickgold R. To sleep: perchance to learn.
Nat Neurosci. 2012 Oct;15(10):1322-3. [PMID: 23007182]

Ribeiro S, Stickgold R. Sleep and school education.
Trends in Neuroscience and Education 3, 18–23.

Park EM, Meltzer-Brody S, Stickgold R. Poor sleep maintenance and subjective sleep quality are associated with postpartum maternal depression symptom severity.
Arch Womens Ment Health. 2013 Dec;16(6):539-47.  [PMID: 23733081]

Wamsley EJ, Tucker MA, Shinn AK, Ono KE, McKinley SK, Ely AV, Goff DC, Stickgold, R, Manoach DA. Reduced sleep spindles and spindle coherence in schizophrenia: Mechanisms of impaired memory consolidation?
Biol Psychiatry. 2012 Jan 15;71(2):154-61. [PMID: 21967958]
Payne JD, Tucker  MA, Ellenbogen  JM, Wamsley EJ, Walker MP, Schacter DP,  Stickgold R. Memory for semantically related and unrelated declarative information: The benefit of sleep, the cost of wake.
PLoS One. 2012;7(3):e33079. [PMID: 22457736]

Djonlagic I, Saboisky J, Carusona A, Stickgold R, Malhotra A. Increased sleep fragmentation leads to impaired off-line consolidation of motor memories in humans.
PLoS One. 2012;7(3):e34106. [PMID: 22470524]

Deak MC, Stickgold R, Pietras AC, Nelson AP, Bubrick EJ. The role of sleep in forgetting in temporal lobe epilepsy: a pilot study.
Epilepsy Behav. 2011 Aug;21(4):462-6. Epub 2011 Jun 28. [PMID: 21715230]

Tucker M, McKinley S, Stickgold R. Sleep optimizes motor skill in older adults.
J Am Geriatr Soc. 2011 Apr;59(4):603-9. Epub 2011 Mar 15. Erratum in: J Am Geriatr Soc. 2011 Jun;59(6):1161. [PMID: 21410442]

Blagrove M, Seddon J, George S, Parrott AC, Stickgold R, Walker MP, Jones KA, Morgan MJ. Procedural and declarative memory task performance, and the memory consolidation function of sleep, in recent and abstinent ecstasy/MDMA users.
J Psychopharmacol. 2011 Apr;25(4):465-77. Epub 2010 Jul 8. [PMID: 20615932]

Wamsley EJ, Stickgold R. Memory, Sleep and Dreaming: Experiencing Consolidation.
Sleep Med Clin. 2011 Mar 1;6(1):97-108. [PMID: 21516215]

Pace-Schott EF, Shepherd E, Spencer RM, Marcello M, Tucker M, Propper RE, Stickgold R. Napping promotes inter-session habituation to emotional stimuli.
Neurobiol Learn Mem. 2011 Jan;95(1):24-36. Epub 2010 Oct 20. [PMID: 20969968]

Tucker MA, Tang SX, Uzoh A, Morgan A, Stickgold R. To sleep, to strive, or both: how best to optimize memory. PLoS One. 2011;6(7):e21737. Epub 2011 Jul 20. [PMID: 21799746]

Wamsley EJ, Stickgold R. Dreaming and offline memory processing. Curr Biol. 2010 Dec 7;20(23):R1010-3. [PMID: 21145013]

Tamminen J, Payne JD, Stickgold R, Wamsley EJ, Gaskell MG. Sleep spindle activity is associated with the integration of new memories and existing knowledge.
J Neurosci. 2010 Oct 27;30(43):14356-60. [PMID: 20980591]

Wamsley EJ, Tucker MA, Payne JD, Stickgold R. A brief nap is beneficial for human route-learning: The role of navigation experience and EEG spectral power.
Learn Mem. 2010 Jun 25;17(7):332-6. Print 2010 Jul. [PMID: 20581255]

Wamsley EJ, Tucker M, Payne JD, Benavides JA, Stickgold R. Dreaming of a learning task is associated with enhanced sleep-dependent memory consolidation.
Curr Biol. 2010 May 11;20(9):850-5. Epub 2010 Apr 22. [PMID: 20417102]

Mograss MA, Guillem F, Stickgold R. Individual differences in face recognition memory: comparison among habitual short, average, and long sleepers.
Behav Brain Res. 2010 Apr 2;208(2):576-83. Epub 2010 Jan 16. [PMID: 20079765]

Morgan PT, Pace-Schott E, Pittman B, Stickgold R, Malison RT. Normalizing effects of modafinil on sleep in chronic cocaine users.
Am J Psychiatry. 2010 Mar;167(3):331-40. Epub 2010 Jan 15. [PMID: 20080983]

Walker MP, Stickgold R. Overnight alchemy: sleep-dependent memory evolution.
Nat Rev Neurosci. 2010 Mar;11(3):218; author reply 218. [PMID: 20168316]

Manoach DS, Thakkar KN, Stroynowski E, Ely A, McKinley SK, Wamsley E, Djonlagic I, Vangel MG, Goff DC, Stickgold R. Reduced overnight consolidation of procedural learning in chronic medicated schizophrenia is related to specific sleep stages.
J Psychiatr Res. 2010 Jan;44(2):112-20. Epub 2009 Aug 8. [PMID: 19665729]

Wamsley EJ, Perry K, Djonlagic I, Reaven LB, Stickgold R. Cognitive replay of visuomotor learning at sleep onset: temporal dynamics and relationship to task performance.
Sleep. 2010 Jan;33(1):59-68. [PMID: 20120621]

Djonlagic I, Rosenfeld A, Shohamy D, Myers C, Gluck M, Stickgold R. Sleep enhances category learning.
Learn Mem. 2009 Nov 19;16(12):751-5. Print 2009 Dec. [PMID: 19926780]

Stickgold R. The simplest way to reboot your brain.
Harv Bus Rev. 2009 Oct;87(10):36, 138. [PMID: 19839445]

Payne JD, Schacter DL, Propper RE, Huang LW, Wamsley EJ, Tucker MA, Walker MP, Stickgold R. The role of sleep in false memory formation.
Neurobiol Learn Mem. 2009 Oct;92(3):327-34. Epub 2009 Apr 5. [PMID: 19348959]

Stickgold R. How do I remember? Let me count the ways.
Sleep Med Rev. 2009 Oct;13(5):305-8. Epub 2009 Aug 21. [PMID: 19699665]

Manoach DS, Thakkar KN, Stroynowski E, Ely A, McKinley SK, Wamsley E, Djonlagic I, Vangel MG, Goff DC, Stickgold R. Reduced overnight consolidation of procedural learning in chronic medicated schizophrenia is related to specific sleep stages.
J Psychiatr Res. 2009 Aug 7. [Epub ahead of print] [PMID:19665729]

Stickgold R, Wehrwein P. Sleep now, remember later.
Newsweek. 2009 Apr 27;153(17):56-7. [PMID: 19418973]

Pace-Schott EF, Hutcherson CA, Bemporad B, Morgan A, Kumar A, Hobson JA, Stickgold R. Failure to find executive function deficits following one night's total sleep deprivation in university students under naturalistic conditions.
Behav Sleep Med. 2009;7(3):136-63. [PMID: 19568965]

Manoach DS, Stickgold R. Does abnormal sleep impair memory consolidation in schizophrenia?
Front Hum Neurosci. 2009;3:21. Epub 2009 Sep 1. [PMID: 19750201]

Ellenbogen JM, Hulbert JC, Jiang Y, Stickgold R. The sleeping brain's influence on verbal memory: boosting resistance to interference.
PLoS One. 2009;4(1):e4117. Epub 2009 Jan 7. [PMID: 19127287]

Pace-Schott EF, Milad MR, Orr SP, Rauch SL, Stickgold R, Pitman RK. Sleep promotes generalization of extinction of conditioned fear.
Sleep. 2009 Jan 1;32(1):19-26. [PMID: 19189775]

Morgan PT, Pace-Schott EF, Sahul ZH, Coric V, Stickgold R, Malison RT. Sleep architecture, cocaine and visual learning.
Addiction. 2008 Aug;103(8):1344-52. [PMID: 18855824]

Payne JD, Stickgold R, Swanberg K, Kensinger EA. Sleep preferentially enhances memory for emotional components of scenes.
Psychol Sci. 2008 Aug;19(8):781-8. [PMID: 18816285]

Stickgold R. Sleep: the ebb and flow of memory consolidation.
Curr Biol. 2008 May 20;18(10):R423-5. [PMID: 18492473]

Pace-Schott EF, Morgan PT, Malison RT, Hart CL, Edgar C, Walker M, Stickgold R. Cocaine users differ from normals on cognitive tasks which show poorer performance during drug abstinence.
Am J Drug Alcohol Abuse. 2008;34(1):109-21. [PMID: 18161649]

Stickgold R. Of sleep, memories and trauma.
Nat Neurosci. 2007 May;10(5):540-2. [PMID: 17453055]

Propper RE, Stickgold R, Keeley R, Christman SD. Is television traumatic? Dreams, stress, and media exposure in the aftermath of September 11, 2001.
Psychol Sci. 2007 Apr;18(4):334-40. [PMID: 17470259]

Stickgold R. Neuroscience: a memory boost while you sleep.
Nature. 2006 Nov 30;444(7119):559-60. [PMID: 17086196]

Ellenbogen JM, Hulbert JC, Stickgold R, Dinges DF, Stickgold R, Thompson-Schill SL. Interfering with theories of sleep and memory: Sleep, declarative memory and associative interference.
Current Biology. 2006 Jul 11;16(13):1290-4. [PMID: 16824917]

Morgan PT, Pace-Schott EF, Sahul ZH, Coric V, Stickgold R, Malison RT. Sleep, sleep-dependent procedural learning and vigilance in chronic cocaine users: Evidence for occult insomnia.
Drug Alcohol Depend. 2006 May 20;82(3):238-49. Epub 2005 Nov 2. [PMID: 16260094]

Walker MP, R Stickgold, FA Jolesz, and S-S Yoo. The functional anatomy of sleep-dependent visual skill learning.
Cerebral Cortex. 2005 Nov;15(11):1666-75. Epub 2005 Feb 9. [PMID: 15703253]

Stickgold R. Sleep-dependent memory consolidation.
Nature. 2005 Oct 27;437(7063):1272-8. [PMID: 16251952]

Stickgold R and MP Walker. Memory consolidation and reconsolidation: what is the role of sleep?
Trends Neurosci. 2005 Aug;28(8):408-15. [PMID: 15979164]

Pace-Schott EF, R Stickgold, et al. Cognitive performance by humans during a smoked cocaine binge-abstinence cycle.
American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse. 2005;31(4):571-91. [PMID: 16320435]

Walker MP, R Stickgold, et al. Sleep-dependent motor memory plasticity in the human brain.
Neuroscience. 2005;133(4):911-7. [PMID: 15964485]

Manoach DS, MS Cain, et al. A failure of sleep-dependent procedural learning in chronic, medicated schizophrenia.
Biological Psychiatry. 2004 Dec 15;56(12):951-6. [PMID:15601605]

Walker MP and R Stickgold. Sleep-dependent learning and memory consolidation.
Neuron. 2004 Sep 30;44(1):121-33. [PMID: 15450165]

Jacobs GD, EF Pace-Schott, R Stickgold, and MW Otto. Cognitive behavior therapy and pharmacotherapy for insomnia: a randomized controlled trial and direct comparison.
Arch Intern Med. 2004 Sep 27;164(17):1888-96. [PMID: 15451764]

Cantero JL, M Atienza, JR Madsen, and R Stickgold. Gamma EEG dynamics in neocortex and hippocampus during human wakefulness and sleep.
Neuroimage. 2004 Jul;22(3):1271-80. [PMID: 15219599]

Merabet LB, D Maguire, et al. Visual hallucinations during prolonged blindfolding in sighted subjects.
J Neuroophthalmol. 2004 Jun;24(2):109-13. [PMID: 15179062]

Fosse R, R Stickgold, and JA Hobson. Thinking and hallucinating: reciprocal changes in sleep.
Psychophysiology. 2004 Mar;41(2):298-305. [PMID: 15032995]

Walker MP, T Brakefield, JA Hobson, and R Stickgold. Dissociable stages of human memory consolidation and reconsolidation.
Nature. 2003 Oct 9;425(6958):616-20. [PMID: 14534587]

Walker MP, T Brakefield, et al. Sleep and the time course of motor skill learning.
Learn Mem. 2003 Jul-Aug;10(4):275-84. [PMID: 12888546]

Mednick S, K Nakayama, and R Stickgold. Sleep-dependent learning: a nap is as good as a night.
Nat Neurosci. 2003 Jul;6(7):697-8. [PMID: 12819785]

Walker MP, C Liston, JA Hobson, and R Stickgold. Cognitive flexibility across the sleep-wake cycle: REM-sleep enhancement of anagram problem solving.
Brain Res Cogn Brain Res. 2002 Nov;14(3):317-24. [PMID: 12421655]

Mednick SC, K Nakayama, et al. The restorative effect of naps on perceptual deterioration.
Nat Neurosci. 2002 Jul;5(7):677-81. [PMID: 12032542]

Walker MP, T Brakefield, et al. Practice with sleep makes perfect: sleep-dependent motor skill learning.
Neuron. 2002 Jul 3;35(1):205-11. [PMID: 12123620]
Stickgold R. EMDR: a putative neurobiological mechanism of action.
J Clin Psychol. 2002 Jan;58(1):61-75. [PMID: 11748597]

Stickgold R, JA Hobson, R Fosse, and M Fosse. Sleep, learning, and dreams: off-line memory reprocessing.
Science. 2001 Nov 2;294(5544):1052-7. [PMID: 11691983]

Stickgold R, A Malia, et al. Brain-mind states: I. Longitudinal field study of sleep/wake factors influencing mentation report length.
Sleep. 2001 Mar 15;24(2):171-9. [PMID: 11247053] 

Stickgold R, L James, and JA Hobson. Visual discrimination learning requires sleep after training.
Nat Neurosci. 2000 Dec;3(12):1237-8. [PMID: 11100141]

Stickgold R, A Malia, et al. Replaying the game: hypnagogic images in normals and amnesics.
Science. 2000 Oct 13;290(5490):350-3. [PMID: 11030656]

Stickgold R, D Whidbee, et al. Visual discrimination task improvement: A multi-step process occurring during sleep.
J Cogn Neurosci. 2000 Mar;12(2):246-54. [PMID: 10771409]

Stickgold R, L Scott, C Rittenhouse, and JA Hobson. Sleep-induced changes in associative memory.
J Cogn Neurosci. 1999 Mar;11(2):182-93. [PMID: 10198133]


Stickgold R. Parsing the role of sleep in memory processing.
Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2013 Oct;23(5):847-53. Review. [PMID: 23618558]

Stickgold R, Walker MP. Sleep-dependent memory triage: evolving generalization through selective processing.
Nat Neurosci. 2013 Feb;16(2):139-45.  Review. [PMID: 23354387]

Stickgold R, Walker MP. Sleep-dependent memory consolidation and reconsolidation.
Sleep Med. 2007 Jun;8(4):331-43. Epub 2007 Apr 30. Review. [PMID: 17470412]

Ellenbogen JM, Payne JD, Stickgold R. The role of sleep in declarative memory consolidation: passive, permissive, active or none?
Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2006 Dec;16(6):716-22. Epub 2006 Nov 7. Review. [PMID: 17085038]

Walker MP, Stickgold R. Sleep, memory, and plasticity.
Annu Rev Psychol. 2006;57:139-66. Review. [PMID: 16318592]

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