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Why your brain stops working when you get tired: Lack of sleep makes cells lose the ability to talk to each other

Why your brain stops working when you get tired: Lack of sleep makes cells lose the ability to talk to each other

Or space out while driving to work and almost hit a stalled auto?

The way in which sleep deprivation disrupts our brain cells' ability to communicate with each other, leading to temporary mental lapses that affect memory and visual perception, is revealed in a new study.

While they performed this task, the researchers focused on the electrical activity in the temporal lobe of the brain, which has been associated with memory and visual recognition. Their findings are published online today by Nature Medicine.

"The acute effects of a lack of sleep can also cause cognitive and behavioral lapses that contribute to accident-induced injury or death", the researchers write.

The study arose from a unique research being conducted on patient evaluation for surgery to treat severe epilepsy. To trigger seizures so as to know the seizure origins in the brain the researchers had sleep deprived the patients for evaluation under controlled situations. Sleep deprivation can induce seizures so the patients stayed awake throughout the night, speeding up the onset of epileptic episodes, which shortens their stay in the hospital.

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Kept awake all night, the study participants were asked to categorise a variety of images as fast as possible while the electrodes recorded the firing of almost 1,500 single brain cells in real time.

Four of the patients stayed up all night before looking at some more images.

"Inadequate sleep exerts a similar influence on our brain as drinking too much".

"We were fascinated to observe how sleep deprivation dampened brain cell activity", said Yuval Nir of Tel Aviv University.

This means that the ability of the neurons to process information and convert visual perception into their consciousness is greatly impaired by sleep deprivation. Fried explained that for example if a person is driving a auto and another person jumps in front of it, a sleep deprived person would have a different response than one who has had adequate sleep.

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The team also discovered "slow" brain waves similar to those that occur during sleep in exhausted regions of the brain. It takes longer for his brain to register what he's perceiving'.

The researchers also discovered that slower brain waves accompanied sluggish cellular activity in the temporal lobe and other parts of the brain.

They were then tasked with categorising a selection of images as fast as possible while implants recorded their brain activity. It can be due to a significant lack of sleep that causes disrupted brain cell function, a new study confirms.

The team plans further tests, including some that dig in more detail into the benefits of sleep. Research has also shown that medical school residents who work long shifts without sleep are more prone to make errors in patient care.

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