Tiredness at the wheel compared to drink driving

08 November, 2017, 09:35 | Author: Jeffery Armstrong
  • Brain cells called neurons were found to fire more weakly and take longer to respond in a study of 12 people kept awake all night

A reflection was obtained as to how the brain cells have become sluggish and how slower the brain is functioning due to lack of sleep after concluding this test. Fried explained that this is a reflection of how the brain reacts to different things and situations around us.

Researchers asked each study participant to categorize a variety of images as quickly as possible.

"But it has been hard to determine precisely how sleep deprivation influences neural activity within the human brain owing to the invasive techniques required to record neural activity".

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

Sleep deprivation disrupted the ability of cells in the brain to encode information and translate visual information into conscious thoughts.

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"Slow sleep-like waves disrupted the patients' brain activity and performance of tasks", said Prof Fried.

When they were sleep-deprived, the participants had slower brain activity and completed the task less accurately. Neurons fired more weakly, Fried said, and communications lagged.

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. It takes longer for his brain to register what he's perceiving'.

"These are the very neurons [that] are responsible for the way you process the world in front of you", Fried says.

The scientists zeroed in on the temporal lobe, which regulates visual perception and memory.

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It was also found that brain cells that took longer to respond were associated with slower brain waves - such as those normally registered during sleep phases - and that this slow-motion activity was located in the same brain regions.

This examination will also help the researchers to understand why seizures develop on sleep deprivation. Fried says this suggests that certain regions of the brain were "dozing, causing mental lapses" while the rest was trying to stay awake and run as usual. Fried thinks the data they got from tracking actual cell activity is evidence enough to start taking exhausted driving much more seriously. The effects are similar to "drinking too much". Yet no legal or medical standards exist for identifying overtired drivers on the road the same way we target drunk drivers'.

Not only does it affect your ability to drive, sleep deprivation has also been linked to diabetes, obesity and depression.

The research was supported by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the National Institute of Mental Health, the Human Frontier Science Program Organization, the Israel Science Foundation, the Marie Curie Career Integration Grant, the Adelis Foundation and the French Operations Research and Decision Support Society.

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