Brain Synapse Development Affected by Wake-Sleep Patterns in Adolescence

For most people with schizophrenia, the onset of the disorder happens during adolescence. The reason for this timing remains unclear, but a new study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison may provide some new answers.

For this study researchers looked at the effect of sleep patterns during adolescence, a period of important brain development. Dr. Chiara Cirelli and colleagues compared brain synapses (connections between nerve cells that are essential for communication) in adolescent mice that were either spontaneously awake, allowed to sleep, or forced to stay awake for 8 to 10 hours. They found that short-term sleep restriction affected growth and depletion of brain synapses.

"The important next question is what happens with chronic sleep restriction, a condition that many adolescents are often experiencing," says Cirelli.

Further experimentation to answer this question is underway, and researchers don't yet know whether the changes seen in this study are temporary or whether they have lasting consequences. But, as Cirelli says, "One possible implication of our study is that if you lose too much sleep during adolescence, especially chronically, there may be lasting consequences in terms of the wiring of the brain."

Source: Medical News Today

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