About Careers MedBlog Contact us

Scans Offer A Peek At How Sleep Deprivation Re-Wires The Brain

by Medindia Content Team on October 25, 2007 at 5:59 PM
Font : A-A+

Scans Offer A Peek At How Sleep Deprivation Re-Wires The Brain

New American research published in the journal Current Biology is holding out links between sleep deprivation and mental illnesses.

The researchers from Harvard Medical School and the University of California at Berkeley, while keeping volunteers awake for 35 hours, found huge increases in brain activity when these study subjects were shown images created to provoke emotional responses. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) on the brains of the sleep-deprived volunteers, the scientists were able to look at blood flow in the brain and in real-time, which shows where the brain is most active.


As part of the study, the volunteers stayed awake for an extended period. They were then scanned while being shown anger- or fear-stimulating picture cards.

The researchers led by Matthew Walker found that the parts of the brain linked to emotional reactions (the amygdala) showed more reactions (over 60% more) to the cards, compared with a normally-rested volunteer. The brain images depicted a sort of re-wiring of brain activity, from the calming and rational prefrontal cortex to the "fear center" ; the amygdala. The subjects were noticed to react more emotionally to the pictures than the well-rested control group.

Says Walker:" The size of the increase really surprised us. "It is almost as though, without sleep, the brain reverts back to a more primitive pattern of activity, becoming unable to put emotional experiences into context and produce controlled, appropriate responses." Walker added: "We found a strong overreaction from the emotional centers of the brain. It was almost as if the brain had been rewired, and connected to the fright, flight or fight area in the brain stem." Walker suggested that the findings might provide clues to the connection between sleep and psychiatric disorders.

Meanwhile in UK, Professor Jim Horne (Sleep Research Center, Loughborough University) welcomed the research, while commenting it would be difficult to use it to unravel the relationship between mental health and sleep. "This is a complex area - the big difference is that people with mental illness might not be aware that they are over-reacting or behaving irrationally, whereas someone with sleep deprivation would be more aware of this overreaction", he said.

Professor Derk-Jan Dijk, a sleep researcher from the University of Surrey, describes the findings as "interesting". "While there have been a lot of studies into the effects of sleep deprivation, this is the first to show what is happening in the brain in response to these emotional stimuli", he says.

Source: Medindia


Recommended Reading

Latest Mental Health News

Sleep Apnea Associated With Smaller Brain Volume, Study Finds
Individuals who have abnormal protein deposits in their brains and also experience more severe sleep apnea are more likely to have smaller volumes in a specific area of the brain.
Understanding the Role of Vulnerable Friends: An Interview With Xingna Qin and Ping Ren
Researchers examined the impact of having vulnerable friends on victimized and depressed adolescents, in a recently published study in Child Development.
Research Finds More Depressed Individuals With Activated Immune Systems Than Expected
A recent research suggests that the prevalence of major depressive disorder (MDD) patients with activated immune systems may surpass prior estimates.
Tea, Chia Seeds, Dark Chocolate and Apples May Help Prevent Age-Related Memory Loss
Consuming flavanol-rich foods like tea, chia seeds, dark chocolate and apples may prevent age-related memory loss, says a new study.
Is the Immune System to be Blamed for Schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia-related behaviors were induced in mice through the administration of anti-NRXN1α autoantibodies taken from schizophrenia patients.
View All
This site uses cookies to deliver our services.By using our site, you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Cookie Policy, Privacy Policy, and our Terms of Use  Ok, Got it. Close

Scans Offer A Peek At How Sleep Deprivation Re-Wires The Brain Personalised Printable Document (PDF)

Please complete this form and we'll send you a personalised information that is requested

You may use this for your own reference or forward it to your friends.

Please use the information prudently. If you are not a medical doctor please remember to consult your healthcare provider as this information is not a substitute for professional advice.

Name *

Email Address *

Country *

Areas of Interests