Could poor sleep contribute to symptoms of schizophrenia?

November 14, 2012

Neuroscientists studying the link between poor sleep and schizophrenia have found that irregular sleep patterns and desynchronised brain activity during sleep could trigger some of the disease's symptoms. The findings, published in the journal Neuron, suggest that these prolonged disturbances might be a cause and not just a consequence of the disorder's debilitating effects.

The possible link between poor sleep and schizophrenia prompted the research team, led by scientists from the University of Bristol, the Lilly Centre for and funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC), to explore the impact of irregular sleep patterns on the brain by recording in multiple during sleep.

For many people, sleep deprivation can affect mood, concentration and stress levels. In extreme cases, prolonged sleep deprivation can induce hallucinations, memory loss and confusion all of which are also symptoms associated with schizophrenia.

Dr Ullrich Bartsch, one of the study's researchers, said: "Sleep disturbances are well-documented in the disease, though often regarded as side effects and poorly understood in terms of their potential to actually trigger its symptoms."

Using a rat model of the disease, the team's recordings showed desynchronisation of the waves of activity which normally travel from the front to the back of the brain during deep sleep. In particular the information flow between the hippocampus—involved in , and the —involved in decision-making, appeared to be disrupted. The team's findings reported distinct irregular sleep patterns very similar to those observed in .

Dr Matt Jones, the lead researcher from the University's School of Physiology and Pharmacology, added: "Decoupling of brain regions involved in memory formation and decision-making during wakefulness are already implicated in schizophrenia, but decoupling during sleep provides a new mechanistic explanation for the cognitive deficits observed in both the animal model and patients: sleep disturbances might be a cause, not just a consequence of schizophrenia. In fact, abnormal sleep patterns may trigger abnormal brain activity in a range of conditions."

Cognitive deficits—reduced short term memory and attention span, are typically resistant to medication in patients. The findings from this study provide new angles for neurocognitive therapy in schizophrenia and related psychiatric diseases.

Explore further: How cannabis causes 'cognitive chaos' in the brain

More information: The study, entitled 'Decoupling of Sleep-Dependent Cortical and Hippocampal Interactions in a Neurodevelopmental Model of Schizophrenia' by Keith G. Phillips, Ullrich Bartsch, Andrew P. McCarthy(1), Dale M. Edgar, Mark D. Tricklebank(1), Keith A. Wafford(1), Matt W. Jones, was published in the journal Neuron on 8 November 2012. www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0896627312008513

Related Stories

How cannabis causes 'cognitive chaos' in the brain

October 25, 2011

Cannabis use is associated with disturbances in concentration and memory. New research by neuroscientists at the University of Bristol, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, has found that brain activity becomes uncoordinated ...

Sleep disturbances hurt memory consolidation

March 28, 2012

Sleep disturbance negatively impacts the memory consolidation and enhancement that usually occurs with a good night's sleep, according to a study published Mar. 28 in the open access journal PLoS ONE.

Recommended for you

Visual pigment rhodopsin forms two-molecule complexes in vivo

July 25, 2016

The study of rhodopsin—the molecule that allows the eye to detect dim light—has a long and well-recognized history of more than 100 years. Nevertheless, there is still controversy about the structure in which the molecule ...

Scientists show how memories are linked in the brain

July 22, 2016

Some memories just seem to go together. Think about an important experience in your life. You may also closely remember another experience that happened around that time too, like exchanging vows at your wedding, and then ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.