Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Deep Throats, Hacked Minds, and Sleepy Heads

First, a non-neuro "thank you" to The Washington Post and Mark Felt for the roles they played all those years ago. Today's lead editorial in the Post (free registration required).

Second, a "thank you" to MindHacks.com for their kind words earlier today about this blog.

Finally, an article from the new issue of The American Psychological Association Monitor about the brain during periods of fatigue:
Sleepy heads
A pilot Air Force study finds individual differences in how brains respond when tired.
BY RACHEL ADELSON
The APA Monitor
June 2005
Print version: page 20

[snip]

When on a long plane flight, do you ever wonder how fatigue affects your pilot? So does the U.S. Air Force. In the June issue of Behavioral Neuroscience (Vol. 119, No. 3), military psychologists report on a study that revealed different patterns of brain activity that corresponded with individual differences in how tired pilots performed mentally.

The study launches a new approach for research into ways to reverse the cognitive effects of sleep deprivation and to improve job safety among pilots and others who work long, demanding hours.

At the Air Force Research Laboratory at Brooks City-Base in San Antonio, a Fatigue Countermeasures Team led by John Caldwell, PhD, compared how well fighter pilots and nonpilots performed certain tasks when snooze-deprived, and related that performance to brain activity via functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). The results are sufficiently intriguing to warrant further study with larger samples and more rigorous controls, say the researchers.

It seems that sleepy people had sleepy brains, or, more specifically, less activity in specific regions of the cortex. The Texas team also confirmed and extended previous findings that while on average, sleep deprivation hammers thinking skills, everybody's different--and no one knows why. This perplexing phenomenon prompted the Air Force psychologists to take the problem into the lab.

"As is often the case, this initial study is not perfect, but it will motivate bigger studies designed to more directly test the hypotheses," says Sean P.A. Drummond, PhD, a psychologist with the Laboratory for Sleep & Behavioral Neuroscience at the University of California, San Diego, and the VA San Diego Healthcare System. "One of the holy grails of sleep deprivation research right now is the quest to find biological markers of individual vulnerability to sleep deprivation."
[ ... Read the full article ... ]
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Anthony H. Risser | | |

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