Research, Technology

Just One Night Without Sleep Causes Structural Changes in the Brain

Science has long been aware of various negativehealth consequences of lack of sleep. One of the most unexpected of them is the accelerated biological aging of the body, which in one of the studies was seen in women. But the results of a recent study are even more surprising. As it turned out, just one night without sleep leads to structural changes in the brain. Our gray matter begins to look like it has suddenly aged one to two years. This conclusion was reached by artificial intelligence, assessing the state of the brain from the images obtained on the MRI. But the good news is that these changes can be eliminated. To do this, you just need to sleep well.

As a result of just one night without sleep, the brain changes as if it had aged two years.

How scientists determine the age of the brain using AI

More than 130 people took part in the study.volunteers. At the same time, they were all divided into four groups: complete sleep deprivation, that is, the participants in the experiment did not sleep at all during the night, partial sleep deprivation (3 hours of sleep at night), chronic sleep deprivation, in which five nights in a row people slept for five hours, as well as a control group. a group whose members slept for eight hours every night, as expected. It should be noted that all participants in the experiment, before it began, slept for eight hours at night, that is, they slept well, which means they were in equal conditions. Also, all volunteers got eight hours of sleep at night after the experiment was completed.

After each night, all participants in the experimentdid an MRI to track what changes occur with different types of sleep deprivation. However, the MRI images were not analyzed by the scientists themselves, but by a machine learning algorithm called brainageR. Previously, he was trained on data from more than three thousand people, which allowed him to estimate the “age of the brain” in several ways.

After each night of lack of sleep, scientists assessed the state of the brain of the participants in the experiment.

Basically the age estimation by the algorithmcarried out on the basis of the appearance of the tissues and the volume of fluid. It should be noted that in the course of previous studies, BrainageR showed a fairly high accuracy in determining age by the state of the brain. The error was about four years.

How sleep deprivation affects the state of the brain

As scientists report in their study,published in the Journal of Neuroscience, in people with partial and chronic sleep deprivation, the predictions of “brain age” did not differ significantly from those of the control group. In other words, their brains didn't change, or didn't change much. But for people who did not sleep all night, the picture was very different - BrainageR indicated that the “age of the brain” increased by one to two years.

After lack of sleep in the brain, the volume of fluid changes, as well as the appearance of tissues.

The results of this study correlate withother studies suggest that several types of changes occur in the brains of people who have been deprived of sleep. Including changes relate to the distribution of fluid and the volume of gray matter. It should be understood that in the current study we are not talking about the actual aging of the brain by two years. But the changes were such that the machine learning algorithm interpreted them as aging.

According to one study, lack of sleep affects people's behavior, namely, people become less altruistic and more stingy.

But what are the health implications of thesechanges? Unfortunately, scientists cannot yet answer this question, since this requires longer observations. In addition, complicating the task is the fact that the changes occurred only in those people who were completely deprived of sleep. Moreover, after eight hours of healthy sleep, the brain returned to normal.

Mild sleep deprivation had no effect on 'brain age'

Perhaps the situation would be clearer ifresearch was larger. Therefore, scientists plan to repeat it, but to attract more volunteers to it, and also to include in it a group of people with long-term chronic sleep deprivation, as well as people working in shifts. In addition, scientists want to find out how sleep deprivation affects “brain age” in different age groups.

What is the practical significance of this work?First of all, it will help to learn more about the consequences of lack of sleep on health. In addition, it is not uncommon for people who have not slept at night to subsequently be unable to fall asleep during the day. The researchers plan to find the reason for this effect.

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However, it can already be said that lack of sleepimpairs cognitive function, and even affects people's gait. But, at the same time, you should not sleep too long either, as we said earlier, this can harm your health.