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Study of Sleep Deprivation Identifies Genes That Hinder Memory

Most people experience occasional sleep deprivation and recognize its impact on their mood and behavior, but there is little scientific understanding of how sleep loss actually affects brain function, especially memory and other cognitive functions. New research published in Frontiers in Neuroscience sheds new light on this problem.

The study identified the effects of sleep deprivation on gene expression (the state of a gene’s activity level – on or off) in the brain using a mouse brain gene expression map across conditions such as sleeping, waking and sleep deprivation in different brain regions.

Activity of over 200 genes was mapped in seven areas of the brain. By comparing which genes were turned on – and where they where in the brain – researchers found that sleep deprivation impacted neurons in the forebrain regions related higher cognitive, emotional and memory functions — including the neocortex, amygdala and hippocampus.
Analysis found a novel set of genes associated with sleep deprivation, including genes associated with the stress response, cell-cell signaling, and the regulation of genes that may be targets for therapeutic intervention to reduce the effects of sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation leads to a range of cognitive, attention and emotional deficits, including irritability and impaired memory, coordination, and concentration. These effects, which can compromise health, performance and safety, are common among those who work extended hours, including military and medical personnel, and others suffering from chronic sleep loss. Sleep deficits have also been linked to the development of diabetes, depression, obesity and cardiovascular disease.

Mapping these changes in gene activity is a critical step toward advances in the treatment of sleep disorders and overcoming the effects of sleep deprivation.

Compliments of Practical Memory Institute