The work shows that sleep deprivation causes neurons to function poorly and mental lapses are formed.
That sleeping poorly is something that does not feel well knows anyone who has gone through a stage of insomnia even transient. But, until now, we did not know what was happening in the organism when the body was deprived of that necessary pleasure that is the dream. But a study published in Nature Medicine on Monday finally gives that information and confirms the worst fears: if you feel you do not provide a football after a season of little sleep, you’re right. Science has just proved it.
The sleep deprivation breaks in our brain cells, neurons, and makes lose their ability to function correctly. “This causes cognitive lapses to occur that influence how we perceive and react to the world around us,” explains the study’s lead author, Professor of Neurosurgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California at Los Angeles, Itzhak. Fried.
To reach this conclusion, the researchers analyzed 12 epileptic patients who had implants in their brains to locate the source of their seizures before they underwent surgery. Since the lack of sleep could cause these convulsions, they were made to stand up all night to accelerate their appearance and took advantage to study other effects of insomnia induced in their body.
The authors asked the participants to classify a series of images as quickly as possible while recording the activity of about 1,500 neurons monitored by their electrodes. And then they saw it: carrying out that simple task became harder and harder the longer the subjects were without sleep. As the patients became slower, so did their neurons.
“We were fascinated to see how sleep deprivation decreased brain cell activity,” says another researcher, Yuval Nir from the University of Tel Aviv. What was happening? Very simple: the neurons had a harder time encoding the information and transfer what their eyes perceived as a conscious thought.
For practical purposes, this neuronal stunning could mean that a driver will take time to notice that a pedestrian gets in front of his car. Thus, the authors emphasize that lack of sleep affects brain activity as much as excessive alcohol consumption.