Saturday, 18 November, 2017

Sleepless nights may affect the brain as much as alcohol, study suggests

Model Released Sleep deprivation leads to a decrease in brain power according to a new study
Sammy Stanley | 09 November, 2017, 01:09

Scientists have now discovered that the actual problem with sleep deprivation is that your brain cells switch off while you are still awake, leading to anything from forgetting your keys to auto crashes.

That weakening in the brain's signalling network can lead to lapses in memory and problems concentrating, and in some ways is comparable to being drunk, say the researchers.

Lack of sleep interfered with the neurons' ability to encode information and translate visual input into conscious thought. As part of the procedure, doctors placed wires connected to the brain to find out where a patient's seizures started.

"When we're sleep-deprived, a local intrusion of sleep-like waves disrupts normal brain activity while we're performing tasks", said Yuval Nir of TAU's Sackler Faculty of Medicine and Sagol School of Neuroscience who led the study.

The study claims that sleep deprivation is something that you can't catch up on, so for example, if you only get 4 hours one night, 12 hours the next night won't make up for the previous lack of 4 hours sleep. That allows Fried and a team of scientists to monitor hundreds of individual brain cells, often for days. This in turn leads to temporary mental lapses that can affect memory and visual perception, researchers say.

Because epileptic patients are often kept awake a lot to provoke a seizure, the scientists had an excellent way to study the effects of sleep deprivation. "This leads to cognitive lapses in how we perceive and react to the world around us".

While they performed this task, the researchers focused on the electrical activity in the temporal lobe of the brain, which has been associated with memory and visual recognition.

Four of the patients stayed up all night and then were asked to look at the pictures. "Unlike the usual rapid reaction, the neurons responded slowly and fired more weakly, and their transmissions dragged on longer than usual".

Dr. Nir says that this same phenomenon can make a sleepy driver sluggish in reacting to a stimulus - such as a pedestrian stepping in front of the vehicle.

"The very act of seeing the pedestrian slows down in the driver's overtired brain", Fried said. It found that taking getting behind the wheel while sleep-deprived could be just as unsafe as driving while intoxicated. It takes longer for his brain to register what he's perceiving'.

The team further reports that this sluggish neuronal activity was also accompanied by slower brain wave patterns in the same region of the brain.

"Inadequate sleep exerts a similar influence on our brain as drinking too much".

Prof Fried, of the University of California, added: "It appears select regions of the patients' brains were dozing, causing mental lapses".

Sleep deprivation has also been linked to obesity, depression and heart attacks, among other risks.

The research received support from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the National Institute of Mental Health and other organizations. Chiara Cirelli and Giulio Tononi at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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