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Preliminary fMRI findings in experimentally sleep-restricted adolescents engaged in a working memory task

By Dean W Beebe, Mark W DiFrancesco, Sarah J Tlustos, Kelly A McNally and Scott K Holland


Here we report preliminary findings from a small-sample functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study of healthy adolescents who completed a working memory task in the context of a chronic sleep restriction experiment. Findings were consistent with those previously obtained on acutely sleep-deprived adults. Our data suggest that, when asked to maintain attention and burdened by chronic sleep restriction, the adolescent brain responds via compensatory mechanisms that accentuate the typical activation patterns of attention-relevant brain regions. Specifically, it appeared that regions that are normally active during an attention-demanding working memory task in the well-rested brain became even more active to maintain performance after chronic sleep restriction. In contrast, regions in which activity is normally suppressed during such a task in the well-rested brain showed even greater suppression to maintain performance after chronic sleep restriction. Although limited by the small sample, study results provide important evidence of feasibility, as well as guidance for future research into the functional neurological effects of chronic sleep restriction in general, the effects of sleep restriction in children and adolescents, and the neuroscience of attention and its disorders in children

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