Exhausted brains are prone to mental lapses as whole areas 'doze off'

Exhausted brains are prone to mental lapses as whole areas 'doze off'

We discovered that starving the body of sleep robs neurons of the ability to function properly. "This leads to cognitive lapses in how we perceive and react to the world around us".

The study arose from a unique research being conducted on patient evaluation for surgery to treat severe epilepsy.

Fried led an global team in studying 12 UCLA epileptic patients who had electrodes implanted in their brains in order to pinpoint the origin of their seizures prior to surgery.

The researchers tested 12 epileptic patients who had electrodes implanted into their brains to pinpoint the origin of their seizures.

The study participants were then asked to categorize images as fast as they can.

It recorded almost 1,500 single brain cells, across the group, when the patients were asked to perform a task. As the patients slowed down, their brain cells did, too.

"We were fascinated to observe how sleep deprivation dampened brain cell activity", said Yuval Nir of Tel Aviv University. Nir added that brain cells did not only respond more slowly but they also fired more weakly and had transmissions that dragged on for a longer time than usual.

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The study, lead by Dr Itzhak Fried from the University of California, found that parts of the brain can shut themselves off in people who are particularly exhausted - leading people to struggle to connect visual information with conscious thought.

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. It takes longer for his brain to register what he's perceiving'.

In a second finding, the researchers discovered that slower brain waves accompanied sluggish cellular activity in the same regions of the patients' brains. Fried says this suggests that certain regions of the brain were "dozing, causing mental lapses" while the rest was trying to stay awake and run as usual.

Lack of sleep is known to trigger seizures in vulnerable individuals. Fried also said that too many doctors are sleep deprived working for long hours and that too impairs judgment and efficacy.

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

Not only does it affect your ability to drive, sleep deprivation has also been linked to diabetes, obesity and depression.

The research received support from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the National Institute of Mental Health and other organizations. Researchers of University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and Tel Aviv University have proven this in their published study that appeared in the journal Nature Medicine online this Monday (6th of November 2017).

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