Sleep Deprivation down to Genetic Vulnerability

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Brain imaging software has now determined that individuals are prone to sleep deprivation based on their genetics. This explains why some are affected to a greater extent than others by the condition.

“The extent to which individuals are affected by sleep deprivation varies, with some crashing out and others holding up well after a night without sleep.”

This has been outlined by Michael Chee of Singapore institute University of Singapore Graduate Medical School. His statements have come in the wake of a study which involved taking brain images of individuals, and determining that of those who stayed awake all night the portion who is genetically resilient to sleep deprivation actually showed enhanced brain activity.

Reduced Brain Activity

The marker herein is that for the first time an adequate contrasting of research value, has been made against those genetically vulnerable to sleep deprivation, who in this case showed reduced brain activity.

Earlier Problems

Michael Chee MBBS bore no connection to the study itself however he is an expert in the field and welcomes the advancement in learning about the condition. One of the key problems with studying sleep deprivation to date has been the difficulty in determining which of the project subjects will be vulnerable until the completion of the study.

This was not the case however in this instance thanks to the new technology, ending a series of studies around the world which have brought inconclusive results. In this case the researchers conducting the study taking place in The University of Liege in Belgium knew the genetic vulnerability and selected participants based on this criteria.

It’s in Our Genes

It is the PERIOD3 gene which determines our vulnerability a predictor of how we will respond to sleep deprivation. Pierre Maguet MD who led the research found that people may carry the gene in two variants; long or short. The ones with the short (PER3) are resilient, whilst the carriers of long (PER3) are vulnerable. The short (PER3) possessors will fair out well when asked to perform cognitive tasks after a bout of sleep deprivation, whilst those with the long variant will fair out badly in these tasks.

The reasons why have been demonstrated by the new research. The imaging software was used on the subjects’ brains whilst they were asked to perform those cognitive skills tasks, ones that required memory and attention, in other words executive function tasks. The imaging was conducted on each participant on four occasions.

Extra Brain Function

They began with the night before a good nights’ sleep then the morning after, before moving onto taking images before, and after a sleepless night. It was found that opposed to both sets of subjects responding in the same way, one group the sleep deprivation resilient ones managed to access extra brain structures to help them in the tasks, in effect they actually showed an increased brain function after a sleepless night as the brain structures which would normally have been used in the performance of the task were also used.

That area is known as the inferior frontal gyrus. The study backs up previous research that found that the variant of the long gene possessors actually performed better earlier in the day, than in the evening also.

How the Research will be Used

“Our study uncovers some of the networks underlying individual differences in sleep loss vulnerability and shows for the first time how genetic differences in brain activity associate with cognitive performance and fatigue,” said the author of the study Pierre Maquet, he went on to state just how important this research will be in configuring a way of exceeding the cognitive limitations presented by the condition. The research will be of particular benefit to those involved in all night work, the ‘at risk people in society where sleep deprivation is a constant in life such as all night health care staff, or commercial aircraft pilots.

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