Researchers from Wake Forest University School of Medicine had discovered a drug that can help in improving performance by reversing the effects of sleep deprivation on the brain. The research results were published in current issue of the journal Public Library of Science- Biology, and may go a long way in helping workers working in shifts, medical professionals and defense people who work round the clock.
The study's results are reported on-line today in the journal Public Library of Science- Biology. The drug, currently known as CX717, is designed to act on a type of receptor located throughout the brain that is involved in cell-to-cell communication. It has been tested in sleep-deprived humans with positive results, according to the developer, Cortex Pharmaceuticals.
The researchers first tested normal, alert monkeys on a matching task similar to a video game. Each monkey was shown one clip art picture at one position on the screen, and after a delay of one to 30 seconds, picked the original out of a random display of two to six different images to get a juice reward. The monkeys were then given varying doses of the drug and re-tested. At the highest dose tested, the drug improved performance to near perfect for the easier trials and by about 15 percent overall.
Next, the monkeys were tested after they were sleep-deprived for 30 to 36 hours, which the researcher estimates is equivalent to humans going 72 hours without sleep. When compared to when they were alert, the monkeys' overall performance was reduced under all test conditions, even on the easiest trials. But, when the monkeys were again sleep-deprived and re-tested after being given CX717, their performance was restored to normal levels.
The researchers used positron emission tomography (PET) to gain images of brain activity while the animals were performing the matching task. These scans showed that the drug was able to reverse most of the changes in activity patterns that occurred with sleep deprivation - which may explain its success at increasing performance.