Sleep deprivation (SD) is a common condition and an important health concern. In addition to metabolic and cardiovascular risks, SD associates with decreases in cognitive performance. Neurovascular coupling (NVC, "functional hyperemia") is a critical homeostatic mechanism, which maintains adequate blood supply to the brain during periods of intensive neuronal activity. To determine whether SD alters NVC responses and cognitive performance, cognitive and hemodynamic NVC assessments were conducted prior to and 24 h post-SD in healthy young male individuals (n = 10, 27 ± 3 years old). Cognition was evaluated with a battery of tests from the Cambridge Neuropsychological Test Automated Battery (CANTAB). Hemodynamic components of NVC were measured by transcranial Doppler sonography (TCD) during cognitive stimulation, dynamic retinal vessel analysis (DVA) during flicker light stimulation, and functional near infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) during finger tapping motor task. Cognitive assessments revealed impairments in reaction time and sustained attention after 24 h of SD. Functional NIRS analysis revealed that SD significantly altered hemodynamic responses in the prefrontal cortex and somatosensory cortex during a motor task. NVC-related vascular responses measured by DVA and TCD did not change significantly. Interestingly, TCD detected decreased task-associated cerebral blood flow (CBF) in the right middle cerebral artery in sleep deprived participants. Our results demonstrate that 24 h of SD lead to impairments in cognitive performance together with altered CBF and hemodynamic components of cortical NVC responses.
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