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Understanding the Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Decision-Making

aces. Since its inception through 2005, the program has spent almost $300 million to fund nearly 200 projects in a range of medical topics, including combat casualty care and technology and infectious disease research.

The researcher and his team recruited 40 volunteers with good sleep habits who agreed to live in a lab for six days. For their stay, volunteers lived two normal days and nights, stayed awake for 64 hours and then were allowed again to sleep so the team could observe the recovery process.

During the volunteers' awake hours, they underwent half-hour long learning, memory and decision-making tests every two hours to see how well they fared at different stages of sleep deprivation. One test, for example, had the volunteers memorize lists of nouns. Drummond and his team also used functional magnetic resonance imaging in the morning and evening to map the brain's reaction. The imaging technique looks at oxygen use in the brain, so whatever part of the brain is being used, it needs more oxygen.

"The brain is a system, a network of areas, all of which work together to get a task done," he said.

The researcher found that volunteers' working memory wasn't affected after 36 hours without sleep, not because they were all healthy and had an average age of 24 years, but because other regions of the brain jumped in to help.

"The brain can actually compensate for this level of sleep deprivation. Areas that don't normally turn on when a person is well rested came online when the person was sleep deprived," Drummond said. "The better they're able to engage them, the better they're able to do after sleep deprivation."

After 60 hours, though, most volunteers didn't fare as well on their tests as they had at the 36-hour mark. After two and a half days without sleep, their brains could not recruit help.

"I think it will be important to use these data to try to better predict and underst
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