Sleep deprivation has as much effect on brain activity as alcohol

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Temporary mental lapses are now believed to occur when these cells struggle to translate visual information into conscious thought.

"We discovered that starving the body of sleep also robs neurons of the ability to function properly", said senior author Dr. Itzhak Fried, professor of neurosurgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and Tel Aviv University. Fried explained that this is a reflection of how the brain reacts to different things and situations around us.

How was the study carried out? The patients were hospitalized for a week and implanted with electrodes to pinpoint the place in the brain where their seizures originated.

"Slow sleep-like waves disrupted the patients' brain activity and performance of tasks", said Fried. To identify memory recall and visual perception accurately, the researchers carefully looked at how temporal lobe neurons responded. "Unlike the usual rapid reaction, the neurons responded slowly and fired more weakly, and their transmissions dragged on longer than usual".

This examination will also help the researchers to understand why seizures develop on sleep deprivation.

You may curse your memory when you lose your house keys for the umpteenth time or fail to find your vehicle after just half an hour in the supermarket.

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.

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If you ever find yourself in this situation, there is some evidence that taking a quick nap will take the edge off of sleep deprivation. "The very act of seeing the pedestrian slows down in the driver's overtired brain", he explains in a UCLA release.

When you don't get enough sleep, parts of your brain are going to take catnaps the next day, even while you're ostensibly up and awake, a new study suggests.

The team further reports that this sluggish neuronal activity was also accompanied by slower brain wave patterns in the same region of the brain.

The phenomenon suggests that select regions of the patients' brains were dozing, causing mental lapses, while the rest of the brain was awake and running normally.

The long-term effects of chronic sleep deprivation have been associated with hypertension, diabetes, obesity, depression, heart attack, and stroke.

According to research, not getting adequate sleep disrupts the brain cells' ability to communicate with each other, thereby leading to one blanking out or spacing out.

Dr Fried said: 'Inadequate sleep exerts a similar influence on our brain to drinking too much. He believes that there should be legal and medical standards in place to identify worn out drivers on the road.

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