Researchers from the University of Bonn and King’s College London were “amazed” at the range of experiences associated with schizophrenia that were induced in ordinary people after just twenty-four hours of deliberately-induced sleep deprivation. “It was clear to us that a sleepless night leads to impairment in the ability to concentrate,” said University of Bonn psychologist Dr. Ulrich Ettinger in a press release. “But we were surprised at how pronounced and how wide the spectrum of schizophrenia-like symptoms was.” In the study published in The Journal of Neuroscience, many participants reported heightened sensitivity to light, an altered sense of time, and experiencing unusual “mental leaps.” Many also began believing they could read others’ thoughts.
The brain’s capacity to inhibit responses to stimuli and “filter” information to prevent sensory overload was also significantly reduced. “There were pronounced attention deficits, such as what typically occurs in the case of schizophrenia,” Ettinger said. “The unselected flood of information led to chaos in the brain.”
The researchers suggested inducing sleep deprivation could provide a means to test new drugs or methods for helping people who’ve been diagnosed with schizophrenia.
Sleep Deprivation Disrupts Prepulse Inhibition and Induces Psychosis-Like Symptoms in Healthy Humans (Petrovsky, Nadine et al. The Journal of Neuroscience, 2 July 2014, 34(27): 9134-9140; doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0904-14.2014)
Sleep deprivation leads to symptoms of schizophrenia (Press Release, Universitat Bonn, July 7, 2014)