NISKAYUNA, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Cutting-edge medical technology developed in Niskayuna could be the key to understanding the impact of sleep deprivation on brain health in a new study.  

According to the Sleep Foundation, more than 35-percent of adults in the U.S. are getting less than 7 hours of sleep and that number is even higher for active military personnel.

“Helping people understand the role of sleep and health and improve the quality of their sleep is really a major end product we hope to realize with this research,” Dr. Kent Werner, Principal Investigator for the study, said.

It’s a collaboration between General Electric Research and Uniformed Services University, funded by the U.S. Department of Defense, that will analyze 75 military personnel with different sleep habits at the USU in Washington, D.C.  

The research team uses a high-tech MRI system, nicknamed MAGNUS, developed at a GE MRI lab in Niskayuna. It’s 3-4 times faster than conventional MRI scanners and can visualize parts of the brain that work to “clear your head” and how different types of sleep can affect it.

Researchers, like Dr. Werner, hope the study will provide new insights for everyone on the damaging effects of sleep deprivation and its relationship to more severe brain disorders like Alzheimer’s and traumatic brain injuries. 

“Once this technique with the MRI scanner is working well, we will compare it with the blood changes during sleep so we can then predict whether or not your brain is properly cleaned during your sleep,” Werner said.

Werner believes the study’s results could be applied to every-day life.

“We can then help people see what their brain is doing and even use techniques to enhance that clearance so they’ll have hopefully more refreshing sleep but, more importantly they’ll have a happier future where they’re less likely to get Alzheimer’s,” Werner said.

The study is set to be completed in 2024.