Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Sleep deprivation mimics psychiatric disorders

From Science Daily:

In the first neural investigation into what happens to the emotional brain without sleep, results from a brain imaging study suggest that while a good night's rest can regulate your mood and help you cope with the next day's emotional challenges, sleep deprivation does the opposite by excessively boosting the part of the brain most closely connected to depression, anxiety and other psychiatric disorders.
Anyone who's experienced a sleepless night can tell you how much harder it is for them to concentrate on basic tasks the next day, not to mention emotional regulation. Researchers at UC Berkeley's Sleep and Neuroimaging Laboratory studied the following:

Using functioning Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), Walker and his team found that the amygdala, which is also a key to processing emotions, became hyperactive in response to negative visual stimuli - mutilated bodies, children with tumors and other gory images - in study participants who stayed awake for 35 hours straight. Conversely, brain scans of those who got a full night's sleep in their own beds showed normal activity in the amygdala. "The emotional centers of the brain were over 60 percent more reactive under conditions of sleep deprivation than in subjects who had obtained a normal night of sleep," Walker said.
I wonder if someday we'll give most people a prescription for a good night's rest before starting them on antidepressants? Hopefully we'll eventually have a test we can give to patients to determine whether their psychiatric illness will get better with sleep and a vacation, or whether we need psychotropic medicatons.
Either way, here's at least another study that supports my encouragement of a good night's sleep for everyone.

Reference: Yoo et al.: "The human emotional brain without sleep -- a prefrontal amygdale disconnect." Publishing in Current Biology, Vol. 17, No. 20, R877-R878, Oct. 23, 2007

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