Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Shira may be closer to right than we think

by Ken Houghton

It's no secret that our children go to sleep late (and I sometimes later). Which puts the burden on Shira, who has commented recently that, after the past week of sleep deprivation, she "has no brain."

She's surely exaggerating—but maybe not by so much as we think.

The BBC reports that No sleep may mean no new brain cells:
The researchers compared animals who were deprived of sleep for 72 hours with others who were not.

They found those who missed out on rest had higher levels of the stress hormone corticosterone.

They also produced significantly fewer new brain cells in a particular region of the hippocampus.

When the animals' corticosterone levels were kept at a constant level, the reduction in cell proliferation was abolished.

And getting back to a normal sleep pattern doesn't solve the problem:
Sleep patterns were restored to normal within a week.

However levels of nerve cell production (neurogenesis) were not restored for two weeks, and the brain appears to boost its efforts in order to counteract the shortage.

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