Although it can’t claim to have found out what causes those sleepless nights, a new MRI study has shed some light on the mysterious common sleeping disorder known as insomnia.
For the study, published recently in the Radiology journal, researchers based in Guangzhou, China, scanned the brains of 23 clinical insomniacs (patients whose restless sleeping habits are not attributable to an environmental, medical or psychological cause) and 30 participants with optimal sleeping patterns. Each participant answered a questionnaire about how much and what quality of sleep they believed they were getting, as well as their self-assessed levels of anxiety and depression.
Then, each participant had their brain scanned by diffusion MRI. Diffusion MRI, which is offered at AIM Medical Imaging, is the imaging of the blockage or flow of water at a cellular level. It is a definitive imaging technique for spotting lesions, tumors–or in this case–spotting water movements along white matter tracts to identify connections or abnormalities in the brain’s network of connections.
The findings revealed that the integrity of the white matter connections in insomnia patients was significantly reduced.
“White matter tracts are bundles of axons, or long fibers of nerve cells, that connect one part of the brain to another,” said study author Shumei Li. “If white matter tracts are impaired, communication between brain regions is disrupted.”