Health Care

Sleep-deprivation and being drunk equally influence our brain

Sleep-deprivation and being drunk equally influence our brain”

Or space out on the highway and almost hit a stalled vehicle? The patients were hospitalized for a week and implanted with electrodes to pinpoint the place in the brain where their seizures originated. "This paves the way for cognitive lapses in how we perceive and react to the world around us".

The team asked the patients to categorise a variety of images as fast as possible while their electrodes recorded the firing of almost 1,500 single brain cells across the group in real time.

While it has always been known that lack of sleep slows down reaction time, it hasn't been clear just how it affects brain activity. The scientists zeroed in on the temporal lobe, which regulates visual perception and memory.

"Performing this task is hard when we're exhausted and especially after pulling an all-nighter", said Dr Nir.

"When a cat jumps into the path of our vehicle at night, the very process of seeing the cat slows us down", said Dr Yuval Nir, from Tel Aviv University.

"During such behavioral lapses, the neurons gave way to neuronal lapses - slow, weak and sluggish responses", says Prof. Thus, researchers conclude that lack of sleep impairs the ability of neurons to encode visual information and pass it on to charge thinking region of the brain.

The same phenomenon can occur when a sleep-deprived driver notices a pedestrian stepping in front of his auto.

It has been established that sleep deprivation slows down our reaction time, but it has been unclear exactly how the lack of sleep affects brain activity and subsequent behavior. "It takes longer for his brain to register what he is perceiving", Nir said.

The researchers also found that the brain's ability to perform tasks suffers from long, slow waves of brain activity, usually observed during deep sleep.

"When we're sleep-deprived, a local intrusion of sleep-like waves disrupts normal brain activity while we're performing tasks". Fried. "These lapses were occurring when the patients were staring at the images before them, and while neurons in other regions of the brain were functioning as usual".

However, a new study has shed light on why sleep deprivation affects behaviour.

"Severe fatigue exerts a similar influence on the brain to drinking too much. - It's a pity that there are no medical standards to identify those on the road who haven't slept and got behind the wheel, the same as now detect drunken drivers".

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

Previous studies have tied sleep deprivation to a heightened risk of depression, obesity, diabetes, heart attacks and stroke, as well as medical errors.

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