The effects of poor quality sleep on brain function and risk taking in adolescence

Neuroimage. 2013 May 1:71:275-83. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2013.01.025. Epub 2013 Feb 1.


Insufficient sleep and poor quality sleep are pervasive during adolescence and relate to impairments in cognitive control and increased risk taking. However, the neurobiology underlying the association between sleep and adolescent behavior remains elusive. In the current study, we examine how poor sleep quality relates to cognitive control and reward related brain function during risk taking. Forty-six adolescents participated in a functional magnetic imaging (fMRI) scan during which they completed a cognitive control and risk taking task. Behaviorally, adolescents who reported poorer sleep also exhibited greater risk-taking. This association was paralleled by less recruitment of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) during cognitive control, greater insula activation during reward processing, and reduced functional coupling between the DLPFC and affective regions including the insula and ventral striatum during reward processing. Collectively, these results suggest that poor sleep may exaggerate the normative imbalance between affective and cognitive control systems, leading to greater risk-taking in adolescents.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Decision Making / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Reward
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Sleep*