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Neuroreport. 2014 Mar 26;25(5):320-3. doi: 10.1097/WNR.0000000000000091.

Long-term total sleep deprivation reduces thalamic gray matter volume in healthy men.

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aBeijing Key Laboratory of Applied Experimental Psychology, School of Psychology bState Key Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience and Learning cCenter for Collaboration and Innovation in Brain and Learning Sciences, Beijing Normal University dNational Key Laboratory of Human Factors Engineering, China Astronaut Research and Training Center, Beijing, China.


Sleep loss can alter extrinsic, task-related functional MRI signals involved in attention, memory, and executive function. However, the effects of sleep loss on brain structure have not been well characterized. Recent studies with patients with sleep disorders and animal models have demonstrated reduction of regional brain structure in the hippocampus and thalamus. In this study, using T1-weighted MRI, we examined the change of regional gray matter volume in healthy adults after long-term total sleep deprivation (~72 h). Regional volume changes were explored using voxel-based morphometry with a paired two-sample t-test. The results revealed significant loss of gray matter volume in the thalamus but not in the hippocampus. No overall decrease in whole brain gray matter volume was noted after sleep deprivation. As expected, sleep deprivation significantly reduced visual vigilance as assessed by the continuous performance test, and this decrease was correlated significantly with reduced regional gray matter volume in thalamic regions. This study provides the first evidence for sleep loss-related changes in gray matter in the healthy adult brain.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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