That’s because parts of your brain are actually asleep, according to a new theoretical paper by sleep scientists at Washington State University.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, the researchers say, there’s no control center in your brain that dictates when it’s time for you to drift off to dreamland. Instead, sleep creeps up on you as independent groups of brain cells become fatigued and switch into a sleep state even while you are still (mostly) awake. Eventually, a threshold number of groups switch and you doze off.
So when you are fighting sleep you are really just keeping only part of your brain awake. Parts of your mind have already gone missing. You find yourself working more or less effectively without those parts? (maybe some hyperactive people work more effectively sleep-deprived? I'm just asking.)
This isn't a proven theory. But it makes a lot of sense.
Lead author James Krueger said the view of sleep as an “emergent property” explains familiar experiences that the top-down model doesn’t, such as sleepwalking, in which a person is able to navigate around objects while being unconscious, and sleep inertia, the sluggishness we feel upon waking up in the morning.
“If you explain it in terms of bits and pieces of the brain, instead of a top-down phenomenon, all of a sudden you can make sense of these things,” said Krueger. “The old paradigm doesn’t even address these things.”
Krueger teamed with fellow neurobiologists David Rector, Hans Van Dongen, Gregory Belenky, Jaak Panksepp and electrical engineer Sandip Roy on the work. Their paper, “Sleep as a fundamental property of neuronal assemblies,” will appear in the December issue of Nature Reviews/Neuroscience. It is available online at http://www.nature.com/nrn/journal/vaop/ncurrent/pdf/nrn2521.html.
If sleep were being directed by a control center, the whole brain would respond at the same time, said Krueger. Instead, it behaves like a self-directing orchestra in which most sections are more-or-less in sync, but a few race ahead or lag behind at any given time.
Click thru and read some of the evidence for why they think their theory makes sense. Interesting stuff.
|Share |||Randall Parker, 2008 November 08 10:17 AM Brain Sleep|