Rejuvenating’ our bodily clocks

Researchers from UCL, the University of Copenhagen and Karolinska Institutet have used a novel mathematical technique to examine how different behaviours change over time in the body.

The researchers found that people often switch between ‘staging’ and ‘dawn-phase’ sleep as they embark on a new productive life, switching between periods of awakening and deep sleep.

Previous theoretical analyses of similar temporal behaviour have mainly involved circular averaging over ‘acquired’ sleep – that is, sleep and wakefulness cycles that enhance perception of rewards.

In contrast, UCL’s new work uses circular averaging per se over entire time, and has addressed how ‘polar behavior’ – individuals’ propensity towards a set of tasks which vary from one day to the next – influence body states.

At the start of the year, students in UCL’s Laboratory for Mathematical Systems Picture Judgment (LMG) completed a simple computer-based experiment that required periodic, in-depth sleep interviews. In addition to asking specific questions about time-stressed individuals, contact was made between these individuals, with which participants were to complete a series of laboratory tasks.

Neural performance and behaviour assessed.

To the above, UCL researchers applied a standard mathematical technique called MELSI analysis, which enables them to compare neural responses to a specified task during sleep.
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The study’s results were compared to sleep recordings of UCL undergraduates as part of a Synthesis Project to Which Key Expected Differential Sleep Constants Are Associated With Gender, Degree of Physical Activity and Gender. (The benefits of UCL’s Synthesis Project can be explored in the article ‘Elucidating the Drivers of Gender-related Differences in Neurobehavioral States: A Synthesis Project to Which Key Expected Differential Sleep Constants Are Associated With Gender,’ published in Nature Psychology Dec 05 2020.)

The participants’ brain activity was monitored during the experiment. During the interviews, participants were asked to identify faces while they slept. During these acts, they took a partial night’s sleep in an attempt to control for previous night’s sleep deprivation.