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Lauren Whitehurst

Research Interests:
Sleep and Circadian Rhythms
Autonomic Nervous System
Cognitive Health
Non-invasive Stimulation

What makes a night of sleep “good”? Staying asleep the whole night? Falling asleep once your head hits the pillow? Waking up refreshed and ready for your day? How does “good” sleep at night prepare you for a day filled with social interaction, cognitive challenges, and emotional tests?  Psychological science is still grappling with the answers to this question, yet we do know that a period of sleep helps us think, learn and remember better. Additionally, specific neural changes during sleep, characterized with electroencephalography (EEG), support human cognitive function. In my lab, we explore how these EEG features and specific changes in our body (i.e. autonomic nervous system) 1) help us define “good” sleep and 2) support cognition. We also examine how stress-sleep interactions impact cognitive function and the importance of sleep to the development of accelerated or pathological cognitive decline (e.g. dementia/Alzheimer’s disease). We are particularly interested in how the lack of access to restorative sleep can play a role in creating or exacerbating disparities in cognitive health for communities historically underserved by science and medicine in the US.  

Dr. Whitehurst received her B.S. in Psychology and an M.A. in Experimental Psychology from James Madison University in 2011 and 2013, respectively and her PhD in Psychology from the University of California, Riverside in 2018. She completed a Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellowship in the Center for Health and Community and the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco in 2020. She is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Kentucky. She is also Core Faculty in the Center for Health Equity Transformation and affiliated faculty in the Department of African American and Africana Studies at the University of Kentucky

The lab is accepting undergraduate research assistants. Please email fallon . dickinson @ uky . edu for more information.

For interested students:

1. My goal is to provide an immersive and emergent research environment that stokes and focuses your scientific curiosities.

2. Being a scientist is not a talent, but a set of skills that empower you to question phenomena. Said a different way, you are not inherently "bad" or "good" at science. In your training with me, you will be introduced to a set of tools that you will need to practice and refine.

3. You are valued and you belong. Who you are matters, and I will work to affirm you as you work to affirm those who share our research environment (e.g. participants, colleagues, other peers).

Selected Publications:

Whitehurst LN, Chen P, Naji M & Mednick SC (2020). New directions in sleep and cognitive research: the role of autonomic activity. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences, 33, 17-24.  

Chen P, Whitehurst LN, Naji M, Mednick SC (2020). Autonomic/Central coupling benefits working memory in healthy young adults. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, 173, 107267.

Chen P, Whitehurst LN, Naji M, Mednick SC. (2020). Autonomic activity during a daytime nap facilitates working memory improvement. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience.

Zhang J, Yetton B, Whitehurst LN, Naji M, Mednick SC (2020). The effect of zolpidem on memory consolidation over a night of sleep. SLEEP. doi: 10.1093/sleep/zsaa084

Whitehurst LN, Agosta S, Castanos, R, Batteli L & Mednick SC. (2019). The impact of psychostimulants on sustained attention across a 24-hr period. Cognition, 193, 104015.

Tselha T*, Whitehurst LN*, Yetton, BD, Vo T, Mednick SC. (2019). Morning stimulant administration reduces sleep and overnight working memory improvement. Behavioral Brain Research, 370, 111940.

Sattari N, Whitehurst LN, Ahmadi M, Mednick, SC. (2019). Does working memory improvement benefit from sleep in older adults? Neurobiology of Sleep and Circadian Rhythms, 6, 53-61.

Whitehurst LN Naji, M & Mednick SC. (2018). Comparing the cardiac autonomic activity profile of daytime naps and nighttime sleep. Neurobiology of Sleep and Circadian Rhythms, 5, 52-57.

Malerba P, Whitehurst LN, Simons SB & Mednick SC. (2018). Spatio-temporal structure of sleep slow oscillations on the electrode manifold and its relation to spindles. SLEEP, 42, zsy197.

McDevitt EA, Sattari N, Duggan KA, Cellini N, Whitehurst LN, Perera C, Reihanabad N, Granados S, Hernandez L, Mednick SC. (2018). The impact of frequent napping and nap practice on sleep-dependent memory in humans. Scientific Reports, 8, 15053.

Duggan KA, McDevitt EA, Whitehurst LN, Mednick SC. (2018). To nap, perchance to DREAM: A factor analysis of self-reported reasons for napping. Behavioral Sleep Medicine, 16, 135-153, doi: 10.1080/15402002.2016.1178115.

Whitehurst LN*, Cellini N*, McDevitt EA, Duggan, KA, & Mednick SC. (2016). Autonomic activity predicts memory consolidation in humans. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 113, 7272-77, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1518202113.

Cellini N*, Whitehurst LN*, McDevitt EA, Mednick SC. (2016). Heart rate variability during daytime naps in healthy adults: autonomic profile and short-term reliability. Psychophysiology, 53, 473-481, doi: 10.1111/psyp.12595.

Yetton BD, Niknazar M, Duggan KA, McDevitt EA, Whitehurst LN, Sattari N, Mednick SC. (2016). Automatic detection of rapid eye movements (REMs): A machine learning approach Journal of Neuroscience Methods, 259, 72-82. doi:10.1016/j.jneumeth.2015.11.015

Whitehurst LN, Fogler KA, Hall, M.K., Hartmann, M. & Dyche JS. (2015). The effects of chronic marijuana use on circadian entrainment. Chronobiology International, 32, 561-57. doi:10.3109/07420528.2015.1004078.