Studies recently covered by Medical News Today have suggested that how much - and how well - we sleep may be key in visual learning, memory consolidation, and necessary unlearning.
It's already been proven that sleep deprivation slows down our reaction time, but it has been unclear how exactly the lack of sleep affects brain activity and subsequent behavior.
Dr Fried led an worldwide team studying 12 people with epilepsy, who had electrodes implanted in their brains in order to pinpoint the origin of their seizures.
While awake, the subjects were asked to sort a variety of images in the shortest time they could.
"We were fascinated to observe how sleep deprivation dampened brain cell activity". Too little shuteye interfered with the neurons' ability to encode information and translate visual input into conscious thought. The resulting cognitive lapses in turn affect how one perceives and reacts to their surroundings. He notes that with lack of sleep, brain cells became "sluggish" and neural communication was impaired.
It has always been very hard for the doctors and researchers to exactly link the sleep deprivation with the neuronal activities. "It takes longer for his brain to register what he's perceiving", says Dr. Nir. During this activity, the electrodes recorded a total of nearly 1,500 brain cells firing off from all the patients, with the researchers paying particular attention to those located within the temporal lobe, the part of the brain responsible for regulating visual perception as well as memory.
"The very act of seeing the pedestrian slows down in the driver's overtired brain", Fried said.
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 researchers insist that sleep deprivation should be taken much more seriously than it now is, given its real dangers. Dr.
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.
"Inadequate sleep exerts a similar influence on our brain as drinking too much", says Dr. He believes that there should be legal and medical standards in place to identify tired drivers on the road.
Scientists are increasingly understanding the importance of getting a good night's shut-eye.