Sleep-Deprived People Make Risky Decisions

Sleep-Deprived People Make Risky Decisions

Mar 09


March 9, 2011

Original Link

A night of sleep deprivation leads to increased brain activity in brain regions that assess positive outcomes, while at the same time, this deprivation leads to decreased activation in the brain areas that process negative outcomes, say scientists at two Duke University medical schools.

In other words, trying to make decisions while sleep-deprived can lead to a case of optimism. Sleep-deprived individuals in the study tended to make choices that emphasized monetary gain, and were less likely to make choices that reduced loss.

“Even if someone makes very sound, risky financial decisions after a normal night of sleep, there is no guarantee that this same person will not expose you to untoward risk if sleep deprived,” said co-author Michael Chee, MD, senior author and professor at the Neurobehavioral Disorders Program at Duke-NUS in Singapore.

Co-author Scott Huettel, PhD noted that casinos often take steps to encourage risk-seeking behavior — providing free alcohol, flashy lights and sounds, and converting money into abstractions like chips or electronic credits.

Their work appears March 8 in the Journal of Neuroscience.

The study demonstrates that sleep deprivation can change the way the brain assesses economic value, independent of its effects on vigilant attention. It also shows that sleep deprivation increases sensitivity to positive rewards while diminishing sensitivity to negative consequences.


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