Dr. B. Rasch Group (Psychology)

Group leader

Dr. Björn Rasch
Department of Psychology, University of Fribourg

Institution and Address

University of Fribourg, Department of Psychology
Rue P.A. de Faucigny 2, 1701 Fribourg
Phone: +41 (0)26 300 7637
e-mail: bjoern.rasch@unifr.ch

Main goals

To better understand the mechanisms underlying the beneficial effect of sleep on memory.

Group members and their position

1 Lecturer (S. Macho)
1 Post Doc (Sandra Ackermann)
8 PhD Students (M. Cordi, M. Göldi, G. Gvozdanovic, M. Lehmann, M. Lüthi, M. Munz, J. Rihm, T. Schreiner)

Previous and current research

Sleep benefits memory consolidation. Current theoretical models assume that the beneficial effect of sleep on memory relies on a covert reactivation of newly acquired memories during slow wave sleep (SWS). We have previously shown that olfactory cueing during SWS reactivates hippocampus-dependent memories and improves recall performance the next day, indicating a functional role of memory reactivation for consolidation processes during sleep. Furthermore, reactivation during SWS immediately stabilizes recently acquired memories, whereas reactivation during wakefulness can have destabilizing effects. In the current research we aim at understanding the mechanisms of this brain-state dependent role of memory reactivation on memory stability. In addition we aim at extending this concept to emotional and traumatic memories and examine reactivation and reprocessing of emotional memories in the sleeping and waking brain.

Future projects

We aim a further understand the role of reactivation on memory processing during sleep and also examine how we can use this technique to enhance memory consolidation every day life.

Techniques / methods

Behavioral experiments, polysomnography, high-density EEG, Physiological Measurements.


– Sleep laboratory with two sleep labs
– Behavioral testing room
– Olfactometer

Selected publications

Rasch, B., Büchel, C., Gais, S., & Born, J. (2007). Odor cues during slow-wave sleep prompt declarative memory consolidation. Science, 315, 1426-1429.
Rasch, B., Pommer, J., Diekelmann, S., & Born, J. (2008). Pharmacological REM sleep suppression paradoxically improves rather than impairs skill memory. Nature Neuroscience. 12(4). 396-397.
Rasch, B., Spalek, K., Buholzer, S., Luechinger, R., Boesiger, P., Papassotiropoulos, A., de Quervain, D. (2009). A genetic variation of the noradrenergic system is related to differential amygdala activation during encoding of emotional memories. Proc.Natl.Acad.Sci.U.S.A . 106(45). 19191-6.
Diekelmann, S., Büchel, C., Born, J. & Rasch, B. (2011). Labile or stable: opposing consequences for memory when reactivated during waking and sleep. Nature Neuroscience. 14(3):381-6.
Rasch, B. & Born, J. (2013). About sleep’s role in memory. Physiological Reviews 93:681-766.

Selected lectures, seminars, colloquia

Lecturer “General Psychology I + II” and “Methods”,  Lecture series for Bachelor Students, University of Fribourg, Switzerland.
Lecturer “Sleep and Memory” and “Scientific reading”,  Lecture series for Master Students, University of Fribourg, Switzerland.


Swiss National Science Foundation
ZNZ, Clinical Research Priority Program University of Zurich