Most of us know that getting a good night’s sleep is the key to happiness and productivity. Instead, a bad night’s sleep can have a negative impact on our performance during the day. But a new study seeks to pinpoint areas of the brain responsible for learning new skills and how it can be affected by poor sleep quality.
Manipulating the motor cortex during deep sleep
The study involved six women and seven men who were asked to perform exercise after a sleepless night and were disturbed by deep sleep overnight.
These tasks involve learning a range of finger movements, and researchers can pinpoint areas of the brain responsible for learning movements.
During the first day of the experiment – after the first exercise – the participants were able to sleep without interference.
The next night, however, the researchers manipulated the participants’ sleep quality. They can focus on the motor cortex and disrupt deep sleep to study the effects of sleep deprivation on the neuroplasticity of the new exercise.
Participants were not aware that their deep sleep stages were tampered with. For them, the quality of two sleeps is roughly the same.
Next, the researchers evaluated the participants’ ability to learn new movements. On the morning of the day, the student’s academic performance reached the highest expected level.
As time went on, however, they continued to make more and more mistakes. Again, this is expected.
After a night of restorative sleep, participants’ learning efficiency soared again. But after sleeping for the night, their learning efficiency did not improve significantly. In fact, after a night of sleep manipulation, participants performed as low as the night before.
The reason for this, according to the researchers, is that the synapses of neurons do not “rest” as they do in restorative sleep during deep sleep.
During the day, our synapses become excited as a response to the stimuli around us. During sleep, however, these synapses restore themselves and their activities “normalize”. Without this recovery time, the synapses would be in maximum arousal for a long time. This state inhibits neuroplasticity, which means that learning new things is no longer possible.
United the lead author, ETH health science and technology, professor Nicole Wenderoth explained: “intense excitement of parts in the brain, the learning efficiency is saturated, can’t change, it suppresses the motor skill learning. Zurich.
To ensure that they were located in the right brain region responsible for deep sleep, the researchers repeated the experiment and assigned the same tasks, but manipulated different areas of the brain.
This is the first study to show a causal link between deep sleep and learning efficiency.
Professor Reto Huber of the university of Zurich children’s hospital and professor Reto Huber, professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at UZH, commented on the significance of the study:
“We have developed a way to reduce the depth of sleep in one part of the brain, thereby demonstrating a causal relationship between deep sleep and learning efficiency […] Many diseases also manifest themselves in sleep, such as epilepsy. New methods, we hope to manipulate specific brain areas that are directly related to disease. “