Published: Wed, November 08, 2017
Health Care | By Alberto Manning

Sleep deprivation has as much effect on brain activity as alcohol

Sleep deprivation has as much effect on brain activity as alcohol

Or space out while driving to work and almost hit a stalled auto?

"A new study has shed light on how sleep deprivation can disrupt brain cells' ability to communicate with each other, thus impairing mental performance".

"This paves the way for cognitive lapses in how we perceive and react to the world around us".

The research is based on a small sample-12 people who had to forgo sleep for a whole night because of epilepsy surgery in the morning. These participants-who were otherwise healthy adults-had eight to 12 electrodes implanted just below their skulls on the surface of their brains, created to monitor the origin of their seizures.

As part of their assessment, seizures were induced by sleeplessness: participants were kept awake through the night until they experienced a seizure, so the electrical activity in the brain could be duly monitored. The electrodes recorded the firing of a total of almost 1,500 brain cells (from all of the participants combined) as the patients responded, and the scientists paid particular attention to neurons in the temporal lobe, which regulates visual perception and memory.

It's already been proven that sleep deprivation slows down our reaction time, but it has been unclear how exactly the lack of sleep affects brain activity and subsequent behavior.

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Dr Yuval Nir from Tel Aviv University said: "We were fascinated to observe how sleep deprivation dampened brain cell activity".

Results showed that a lack of sleep caused the neurons to respond to visual stimulus at a much slower place, while transmissions were found to drag on longer than normal.

The team also discovered "slow" brain waves similar to those that occur during sleep in exhausted regions of the brain. "It takes longer for his brain to register what he's perceiving", Dr.

In a second finding, the researchers discovered that slower brain waves accompanied sluggish cellular activity in the same regions of the patients' brains. "This phenomenon suggests that select regions of the patients' brains were dozing, causing mental lapses, while the rest of the brain was awake and running as usual". A new study is explaining how much of an effect losing sleep has on human brain cells. And while police have standard tests to measure for booze, "no legal or medical standards exist for identifying overtired drivers on the road the same way we target drunk drivers", notes Fried, whose study is in Nature Medicine.

The team plans to explore the benefits of a good night's sleep in more detail in the future and to uncover the mechanism responsible for the neuronal glitches that generate mental lapses.

The long-term effects of chronic sleep deprivation have been associated with hypertension, diabetes, obesity, depression, heart attack, and stroke.

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