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Sleep-Deprived Brains

June 9, 2011

A brain chemical called adenosine plays a major role in symptoms of sleep deprivation.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Sleep deprivation chemistry…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Sleep loss impairs our memory and thinking. It’s also known to boost a chemical called adenosine in the brain. Now, studies in mice have tied those two strands more closely together. In one study, University of Pennsylvania neurobiologist Ted Abel and his colleagues genetically engineered some of the mice, altering brain cells called glial cells that produce adenosine.

TED ABEL (University of Pennsylvania):

And we found that when we blocked the release of chemicals from these glial cells, we blocked the cognitive deficits caused by sleep deprivation.

HIRSHON:

They got similar results in normal mice, using a drug that blocked adenosine receptors in the hippocampus, a major memory center in the brain. Abel notes that many groggy people already take an adenosine-blocking drug: it’s called caffeine. But a more targeted drug could potentially keep our minds sharp without keeping us up late another night. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.