Beware! This is your brain on sleep deprivation.

LUNA PRODUCTIONSPopular UC Berkeley professor Dr. Marian Diamond appears in a scene from the documentary “My Love Affair With the Brain: The Life and Science of Dr. Marian Diamond,†which screens at the Mill Valley Film Festival.

You know how when you don’t get enough sleep, you feel like you’re moving through the day in a fog, feeling dopey? That’s because you are, a new UCLA study suggests.

Indeed, sleep deprivation can actually stop your brain cells from communicating correctly and that may have a staggering impact on how you see the world around you, as the Telegraph reports. The new research, which has serious implications for driving and doing other potentially dangerous tasks while tired, shows that parts of the brain actually turn themselves off to rest. They do this even though the person is wide awake.

A small new study at UCLA, as Forbes reports, looked at the activity of individual brain cells in sleep-starved patients. The scientists were able to monitor 12 epileptic patients, who were being kept awake all night before a surgery (to try to trigger a seizure). During this long sleepless night, researchers examined the activity of hundreds of neurons in each patient. The participants also did cognitive exercises, like face-matching, so that the researchers could correlate brain cell activity with cognitive performance.

As the long night wore on and bone-weariness increased, brain cells became slower and slower to respond to cognitive tasks. When they did respond, their activity was sloppier than normal, notes Forbes. The firing of the neurons was weaker and slower. That leads to mistakes. That’s how closely connected the performance of the brain cells and the performance of the person was. The researchers point out that the changes in cognitive performance that come with sleep deprivation is quite similar to the decline that comes from drinking alcohol.

Now for the really weird part. Certain regions of the brain actually seemed to be taking little cat naps, while the patient was awake. Read the gory details about selective neuronal lapses in the full study here. This tracks with previous studies that have noted this nap mode in rats.

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“Slow, sleep-like waves disrupted the patients’ brain activity and performance of tasks,” said

Source:: The Mercury News – Lifestyle

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