David Samson is from the University of Toronto, Mississauga. He was awarded a Leakey Foundation Research Grant during our spring cycle for his project entitled “What drives sleep flexibility? A comparative investigation of circumpolar and equatorial hunter-gatherers.”
Humans are a remarkable species. We live in large social networks, persist in inhospitable places, fashion complex tools, and communicate using language. While we exhibit many morphological and behavioral differences to other primates – our cognitive capacity likely played a crucial role in our success.
My research investigates the biology, ecology, and evolution of primate sleep. I believe the effects of sleep on our lineage were profound. For example, in humans, sleep is critical for immune strength, working memory, attention, decision-making, and visual-motor performance, yet how sleep affects such processes remains unknown for most non-human primates.
To investigate this research question, I use pioneering, non-invasive technology to study human and non-human primates with a broad phylogenetic scope. In addition, I engage with the emerging field of evolutionary medicine by using my findings to understand human sleep disorders within an evolutionary framework. The ultimate goal of my research is to further our understanding of human evolution.