Researchers have shown that brain waves during sleep can determine a person’s propensity for risk. Research published in the journal Neuroimage shows that slower waves occur during deep sleep and indicate sleep quality and regeneration. “The less slow waves a person has on the right prefrontal cortex during deep sleep, the greater the risk. This area of the brain, among other things, is important for controlling one’s emotions,” explains neuroscientist Doria Knoch.
The topographic distribution of slow waves in the brain is highly distinct and highly stable over time, meaning that each individual has its own individual neuronal sleep profile. To determine if this profile reveals anything about a person’s propensity for risk, the research team studied 54 “good sleepers” who typically get seven to eight hours of sleep. These were identified using Actigraph, which tracks movement patterns during sleep. “Individual slow-wave profiles can only be accurately interpreted during normal sleep,” explained study leader Lorena Giannoti.
In the next step, sleep data was collected at participants’ homes using a portable polysomnographic system by placing 64 electrodes on their scalp. “Continuous measurement of brain activity during sleep in a familiar environment and high concentration of data collected by 64 electrodes is rather rare as a constellation in sleep studies. It allows participants to sleep normally and allows us to collect large amounts of that data,” explains Mirzam Has done. And this information is very meaningful and significant: participants who show less slow-wave activity on their right prefrontal cortex are generally more prone to risk than individuals with more slow-wave activity.
The risk-taking tendency was expressed in a computer game where they could win real money: participants had to decide how far they would drive, knowing that at some point, a wall would appear with which the car would collide. Each meter drives them to earn more money, but also increases their risk of crashing.
“Surprisingly, sleep duration has had no effect on risk trends, at least in our study of good sleep. Rather, it is critical that deep sleep occurs in the right-brain region – in this case, the right prefrontal cortex,” explains Lorena Giannoti.
Health economics research has shown that risky behaviors can have significant health-related and financial consequences. According to researchers, it is therefore important to gain a better understanding of the underlying mechanisms of risky behavior. “Our results could be included in the target intervention. Sleep researchers are now developing strategies to correct particularly slow waves,” said Notch.
(With ANI input)