Sleep deprivation has major impact on brain

Posted Nov 13 2017 in Living with epilepsy

New research carried out at UCLA and Tel Aviv University shows that a lack of sleep has a major impact on how the brain functions.  The research, published in the journal Nature Medicine, adds to a growing body of research about the impact of sleep deprivation on brain function.

The researchers studied 12 people with epilepsy who had electrode implants in their brains to register where their seizures originated in the lead up to surgery.  As part of the process, the participants were kept awake at night until they experienced a seizure so that the electrical activity in their brains could be monitored.

In the experiment, participants were given a categorization task in which they had to sort different images into categories as quickly as possible.  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.

The scientists noticed that the sleepier and more tired the participants became, the more difficult they found the task, and the slower they performed.

“We were fascinated to observe how sleep deprivation dampened brain cell activity,” explains lead study author Dr Yuval Nir. He notes that with lack of sleep, brain cells became “sluggish” and neural communication was impaired.  “Unlike the usual rapid reaction,” he says, “the neurons responded slowly, fired more weakly, and their transmissions dragged on longer than usual.”

The scientists note that future studies should aim to target the brain mechanisms responsible for memory and perception lapses, as well as foreground the benefits of a good night’s sleep.

Source: Medical News Today

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