Headlines > Computer games to test effects of sleep deprivation

Posted on July 3, 2017

Image by Alyssia Griffith

Alyssia Griffith reports on a new and exciting way to have fun whilst helping scientists with their research
A team of neuroscientists at Western University, Canada have just launched what is set to become the world’s largest study of the effects of lack of sleep on the brain.

The team has developed a special computer game to test our skills like reasoning, language comprehension and decision-making, and they want people from all over the world to sign up online to take part. The tests can be played on any computer, smart phone or tablet.

Sleep deprivation has a massive effect on our brains as well as our bodies. Teenagers need nine hours of sleep each night, according to the National Institute of Health, to function at their best. However a study revealed that only 9% of high school students are meeting these recommendations. Sleep deprivation can limit your ability to learn, listen, concentrate and solve problems, leaving you prone to forgetting very important details. It can also contribute to problems like acne.

At first, the games appear easy but increase in difficulty, and can especially be found difficult when you haven’t had enough sleep. The games test your ability to recognise colour, identify odd shapes, grammatical reasoning and ability to plan.

Volunteers at Western University became the guinea pigs for the brain games. After staying up until 4am, they were finally allowed to sleep but only for four hours. Later that morning, they re-did the tests, and three out of five of the volunteers scored significantly worse than the test taken the night before.

British Professor Adrian Owen leading the study said, “It may be that lack of sleep is having very profound effects on decision making and perhaps we should avoid making important decisions like buying a house or deciding whether to get married when we are sleep deprived.”

The data produced will help scientists and society to understand more about how sleep effects our brain. Please click on the link below to play the games and take part in this massive study. I did and it’s great fun.


What I think
For an early 7am school start, you would have to get some shut-eye at 10 pm to get your recommended nine hours sleep. Still on your phone at that time?

I think that it is very important to get enough sleep in order to function at our full ability. Sleep is as vital for our health as the food we eat and the air we breathe; yet a lack of it can affect our performance at school, which is never good.

Alyssia Griffith
Alyssia is a student attending Highlands School and enjoys art, graphic design and reading books. She aspires to flourish in her passions and pursue a career in Graphic design one day.


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One Response to Computer games to test effects of sleep deprivation

  1. Shakira July 3, 2017 at 9:59 am #

    Great article Alyssia – it is incredibly hard to make decisions when your brain wants and needs to sleep! Everyone should get the right amount of rest they need.

    Definitely don’t try to buy a house at 4am in the morning!

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