US Pharm. 2014;39(3):49-50.
According to researchers from Johns
Hopkins University, people with chronic insomnia show more plasticity
and activity than good sleepers in the part of the brain that controls
“Insomnia is not a nighttime disorder,”
says study leader Rachel E. Salas, MD, an assistant professor of
neurology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “It’s a
24-hour brain condition, like a light switch that is always on. Our
research adds information about differences in the brain associated
Dr. Salas and her team, reporting in the journal Sleep,
found that the motor cortex in those with chronic insomnia was more
adaptable to change—or more plastic—than in a group of good sleepers.
Among those with chronic insomnia, they also found more “excitability”
among neurons in the same region of the brain, supporting the theory
that insomniacs are in a constant state of heightened information
processing that may interfere with sleep.
Dr. Salas says the origins of increased
plasticity in insomniacs are unclear, and it is not known whether the
increase is the cause of insomnia. It is also unknown whether this
increased plasticity is beneficial, the source of the problem, or part
of a compensatory mechanism to address the consequences of sleep
deprivation associated with chronic insomnia.