Exhausted brains are prone to mental lapses as whole areas 'doze off'

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Fried explained, "You can imagine driving a auto and suddenly somebody jumps in front of the vehicle at night".

A study conducted by the University of California, Los Angeles team of researchers shows that individuals with sleep deprivation are more likely to experience momentary mental lapses, which can eventually lead to poor memory recall and visual perception.

The scientists focused particularly on the temporal lobe - the region of the brain which regulates visual perception and memory.

"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. "This leads to cognitive lapses in how we perceive and react to the world around us".

Electrodes were implanted in their brains in order to pinpoint the origin of their seizures.

For the study, researchers examined 12 exhausted epileptic patients who had electrodes implanted into their brains to pinpoint the origin of their seizures.

The study participants were asked to stay awake all night to speed up the onset of an epileptic episode before undergoing surgery.

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"Slow sleep-like waves disrupted the patients' brain activity and performance of tasks", said Fried. They found that lack of sleep causes bursts of electrical activity that brain cells use in communication to weaken and slow down.

"We were fascinated to observe how sleep deprivation dampened brain cell activity".

"Unlike the usual rapid reaction", he says, "the neurons responded slowly, fired more weakly, and their transmissions dragged on longer than usual". Sleep deprivation interfered with the neurons' ability to process information, encode it, and then translate the visual stimulus into conscious thought. 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.

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.

In a second finding, the researchers discovered slower brain waves in the same regions of people's brains to the failing brain cells. This disrupted brain activity affects how one can effectively perform their tasks.

This examination will also help the researchers to understand why seizures develop on sleep deprivation. Fried also said that too many doctors are sleep deprived working for long hours and that too impairs judgment and efficacy. "Yet no legal or medical standards exist for identifying over-tired drivers the same way we target drunk drivers".

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