Twenty-four hours of sleep deprivation can lead to conditions in healthy persons similar to the symptoms of schizophrenia, says a study. "It was clear to us that a sleepless night leads to impairment in the ability to concentrate," said professor Ulrich Ettinger from the University of Bonn in Germany.
"But we were surprised at how pronounced and how wide the spectrum of schizophrenia-like symptoms was," Ettinger added. The chronic form of psychosis is referred to as schizophrenia, which involves thought disorders and misperceptions.
This discovery was made by an international team of researchers under the guidance of the University of Bonn and King's College, London. The study involved 24 healthy participants of both genders aged 18 to 40. In an initial run, the test subjects were asked to sleep normally in the laboratory.
About one week later, they were kept awake all night with movies, conversation, games and brief walks. On the following morning, subjects were each asked about their thoughts and feelings. In addition, subjects underwent a measurement known as prepulse inhibition.
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"Prepulse inhibition is a standard test to measure the filtering function of the brain," Nadine Petrovsky from the University of Bonn said.
Filters separate what is important from what is not important and prevent sensory overload, Petrovsky added.
This filtering function of the brain was significantly reduced following a sleepless night, the findings showed.
"There were pronounced attention deficits, such as what typically occurs in the case of schizophrenia," Ettinger added.
Following sleep deprivation, the participants also indicated in questionnaires that they were somewhat more sensitive to light, colour or brightness. Accordingly, their sense of time and sense of smell were altered.
The results of the study appeared in The Journal of Neuroscience.