A recent study of sleep loss and depression found that one night of total sleep deprivation generally worsens mood and emotional regulation in healthy individuals, but induces a temporary lift in spirits for some individuals with depression. Researchers used functional MRI scans to observe the communication between the amygdala and the anteriora cingulate cortex (ACC) — brain areas that regulate mood — after subjects endured a night without sleep.
The findings were remarkable: lack of sleep escalated negative mood among the healthy subjects, but eased depressive symptoms in 43% of the patients with depression.
This study, which was funded by a pilot grant from the Institute for Aging of the University of Pennsylvania, showed that increased connectivity between the amygdala and the ACC following sleep deprivation improved mood in healthy participants and exhibited an antidepressant effect in the patient group. These findings could lead to the development of new, quick-acting antidepressant treatments focusing on enhancing the connectivity between the amygdala and ACC.