emfizz.com November 24, 2017

Sleepless nights lead to sluggish brain activity

08 November 2017, 01:33 | Todd Saunders

Brain cells fire more slowly and stop encoding memories efficiently UCLA found Credit UCLA

Brain cells fire more slowly and stop encoding memories efficiently UCLA found

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

Authored by researchers from the United States and Israel, the paper reports that poor sleep will disrupt neurons' ability to communicate with each other, creating temporary mental lapses that negatively impact memory capacity and visual perception. This area of the brain regulates visual perception and memory.

These findings could help explain why lack of sleep hinders a lot of mental functions, according to Itzhak Fried, rofessor of neurosurgery at the University of California, Los Angeles and author on the study. The resulting cognitive lapses in turn affect how one perceives and reacts to their surroundings.

Dr Fried led an global team studying 12 people with epilepsy, who had electrodes implanted in their brains in order to pinpoint the origin of their seizures.

Researchers recorded brain activity of 12 epileptic patients who had previously shown no or little response to drug interventions at UCLA.

"Slow sleep-like waves disrupted the patients' brain activity and performance of tasks", explains Dr. Scientists looked at how the patients' brains functioned as they grew more exhausted and reached the danger point for an epileptic seizure.

Lead author Yuval Nir of Tel Aviv University said that it was fascinating to note how lack of sleep "dampened brain cell activity". Unlike the usual rapid reaction, the neurons responded slowly, fired more weakly and their transmissions dragged on longer than usual'.

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Lack of sleep caused the neurons to respond to visual stimulus sluggishly, the scientists reported in the journal Nature Medicine.

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. "It takes longer for his brain to register what he's perceiving", says Dr. Nir. "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", said Fried.

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.

"Inadequate sleep exerts a similar influence on our brain as drinking too much", said Fried. He believes that there should be legal and medical standards in place to identify tired drivers on the road.

Fried and his colleagues plan to dive more deeply into the benefits of sleep.

Sleep deprivation is associated with long term impact in humans leading to hypertension, diabetes, heart attacks, obesity, depression etc.

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