Engineering Innovation Podcast and Radio Series

Sleep Switch

PostedMay 1, 2016

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Anchor Lede: You’ve probably experienced missing portions of a conversation because you “zoned out.” Research now shows how part of your brain can fall asleep, even when you’re awake.

Randy Atkins: There may be an explanation for what happens when you’re tired and “zone out.” Laura Lewis, at the Harvard’s Society of Fellows, says by stimulating certain areas near the brain’s Thalamus…

Laura Lewis: …we’ve induced a state where it looks like only part of the brain is sleeping and the rest of it is still in a high state of arousal.

Randy Atkins: Lewis says this likely happens naturally…and enhancing sleep in select parts of the brain while you’re actually sleeping could have benefits.

Laura Lewis: If an area has been overused and needs to rest more maybe your brain has a way to engineer that sleep.

Randy Atkins: Lewis thinks it may be the way sleep seems to enhance learning and memory. And the finding might one day lead to new drugs or anesthesia techniques. With the National Academy of Engineering, Randy Atkins, WTOP News.