Researchers also noticed sleep-like waves disrupting parts of the brain, nearly as if certain areas were dozing off and causing mental lapses of concentration, while other sections of the brain carried on running as normal.
The study also pointed out that slower brain cell activity was accompanied by slower brain waves in the temporal lobe and other regions of the brain. Researchers of University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and Tel Aviv University have proven this in their published study that appeared in the journal Nature Medicine online this Monday (6th of November 2017). "This leads to cognitive lapses in how we perceive and react to the world around us".
Fried led his global team of researchers while studying 12 UCLA epileptic patients. These participants-who were otherwise healthy adults-had eight to 12 electrodes implanted just below their skulls on the surface of their brains, created to monitor the origin of their seizures. The researchers asked participants to do the same task on less and less sleep; at the end, four volunteers even stayed awake the entire night (which, coincidentally, is one way to trigger a seizure).
Performing the task grew more challenging as the patients grew sleepier.
The study found that as patients got more exhausted, the neuron firing activity slowed down and lost strength. Unlike the usual rapid reaction, 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.
The same phenomenon can occur when a sleep-deprived driver notices a pedestrian stepping in front of his auto. The very act of seeing the pedestrian slows down in the driver's overtired brain. "It takes longer for his brain to register what he's perceiving", says Dr. Nir.
Such brain farts can prove more consequential than lost keys: The findings show how little society cares about sleep deprivation, he said. Fried. "This phenomenon suggests that select regions of the patients' brains were dozing, causing mental lapses, while the rest of the brain was awake and running as usual".
The scientists cited some existing research that detailed some potentially catastrophic effects of sleep deprivation.
"It exerts a similar influence on our brain as drinking too much".
To further cement the benefits of sleep, Fried and his team of researchers are planning to look at the mechanism that drives cellular changes that lead to mental lapses.
Sleep deprivation is associated with long term impact in humans leading to hypertension, diabetes, heart attacks, obesity, depression etc.
The research received support from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the National Institute of Mental Health and other organizations.