Sleep deprivation alters task-related changes in functional connectivity of the frontal cortex: A near-infrared spectroscopy study

Brain Behav. 2021 Jun 22;e02135. doi: 10.1002/brb3.2135. Online ahead of print.


Sleep deprivation (SD) is known to be associated with decreased cognitive performance; however, the underlying mechanisms are poorly understood. As interactions between distinct brain regions depend on mental state, functional brain networks established by these connections typically show a reorganization during task. Hence, analysis of functional connectivity (FC) could reveal the task-related change in the examined frontal brain networks. Our objective was to assess the impact of SD on static FC in the prefrontal and motor cortices and find whether changes in FC correlate with changes in neuropsychological scores. Healthy young male individuals (n = 10, 27.6 ± 3.7 years of age) participated in the study. A battery of tests from the Cambridge Neuropsychological Test Automated Battery (CANTAB) and 48 channel functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) measurements were performed before and after 24 hr of SD. Network metrics were obtained by graph theoretical analysis using the fNIRS records in resting state and during finger-tapping sessions. During task, SD resulted in a significantly smaller decrease in the number and strength of functional connections (characterizing FC) in the frontal cortex. Changes in the global connection strengths correlated with decreased performance in the paired association learning test. These results indicate a global impact of SD on functional brain networks in the frontal lobes.

Keywords: functional connectivity; near-infrared; neuropsychological tests; sleep deprivation; spectroscopy.