The Sleep-Deprived Human Brain

2017–2018 Kim and Judy Davis Dean’s Lecture in the Sciences
Photo source: SIphotographyPhoto source: SIphotography

Nora D. Volkow is the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse at the National Institutes of Health.

There is increased recognition that sleep deprivation interferes with cognition and performance and that it may contribute to brain diseases such as addiction, chronic pain, and Alzheimer’s, among others.

This presentation will focus on results from two sets of brain-imaging studies done to investigate the effects of sleep deprivation on the human brain. One set examined the relevance of sleep deprivation to brain function and to addiction, as well as the effects of such deprivation on certain neurotransmitters that control movement and mediate reward systems. The other set of studies looked at the role of sleep and sleep deprivation on the glymphatic system, which eliminates metabolic waste from the central nervous system and distributes neurotransmitters throughout the brain, mainly during sleep. Taken together, these studies suggest a complex picture in which the sleep-deprived human brain may tell us much about addiction and other diseases.

Free and open to the public.