Specific Changes in the Brain Associated with Sleep Deprivation | SRI International

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Brain Changes Associated with Sleep Deprivation

Lack of sleep can lead to a range of cognitive, attention, and emotional deficits. SRI and its partner have thoroughly studied its effects on the brain.

The effects of sleep deprivation, which can compromise health, performance, and safety, are common among people who work extended hours, including military and medical personnel. It leads to a range of deficits, including irritability and impaired memory, coordination, and concentration. Sleep deficits have also been linked to the development of some chronic conditions, including diabetes, depression, obesity, and cardiovascular disease.

Although most people experience occasional sleep deprivation and recognize its impact on their mood and behavior, there is limited scientific understanding of how sleep loss affects brain function. Collaboration between scientists at SRI and the Allen Institute for Brain Science resulted in the most systematic study to date of the effects of sleep deprivation on gene expression in the brain.

By studying which genes were turned on across the brain, the researchers found a “molecular anatomical signature” of sleep deprivation that involves many regions in the forebrain, including the neocortex, amygdala, and hippocampus. Together, these regions mediate cognitive, emotional, and memory functions that are impaired by sleep deprivation. These findings may contribute to treatments that will help improve sleep quality and reduce problems arising from sleep deprivation.

Detailed analyses of 209 brain areas revealed a novel set of genes not previously associated with sleep deprivation, including genes associated with the stress response, cell-cell signaling, and the regulation of other genes. One gene, neurotensin, has been implicated in schizophrenia and is affected by antipsychotic drugs. The resulting open data resource is one of a growing collection of public online resources provided by the Allen Institute, founded by philanthropist Paul G. Allen to advance brain research.

This work was funded by the Department of the Army USAMRAA award W81XWH-06-1-0131 to the Allen Institute for Brain Science and grant RO1 HL59658 to SRI International from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health.

The U. S. Army Medical Research Acquisition Activity, 820 Chandler Street, Fort Detrick MD 21702-5014 is the awarding and administering acquisition office. The content of this release and this work does not necessarily reflect the position or the policy of the Government, and no official endorsement should be inferred.

The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Heart, Lung, And Blood Institute or the National Institutes of Health.