In a study published in Nature Medicine, it was reported “that individual neurons slow down when we are sleep deprived, leading to delayed behavioral responses to actions around us.” With sleep deprivation, the neural lapse, or slowdown that occurs “affects the brain’s visual perception and memory associations.” They determined that certain tasks are difficult when one is tired, and especially difficult after pulling an all-nighter. They observed “that sleepiness slows down the responses of individual neurons, leading to behavioral lapses,” and that “sleep deprivation affected the area associated with visual perception and memory,” resulting in “neuronal lapses — slow, weak and sluggish responses.” They also found “that neuronal lapses co-occurred
with slow brain waves in the same regions. As the pressure for sleep mounted, specific regions ‘caught some sleep’ locally. Most of the brain was up and running, but temporal lobe neurons happened to be in slumber, and lapses subsequently followed.” This research demonstrated that sleep deprivation disrupts and slows normal neural activity in specific regions of the brain. Accordingly, sleep deprivation is a major source of morbidity and induces widespread health effects.
Nir Y, Andrillon T, Marmelshtein A, Suthana N, Cirelli C, Tononi G, Fried I. Selective neuronal lapses precede human cognitive lapses following sleep deprivation. Nature Medicine.
2017 October. doi:10.1038/nm.4433.