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Breakthrough finding discovers cause of insomnia
Brain scans reveal why insomnia sufferers can't get sleep.
- Dutch scientists compared the brain scans of people invoking shameful experiences.
- Insomnia suffers can't neutralize distressing memories as well.
- The anterior cingulate cortex is the part of the brain linked to insomnia.
New research from scientists at the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience points to the underlying cause of insomnia – a sleep disorder affecting up to a half of all adults at some point. Sufferers from insomnia are unable to resolve experiences as neutralized memories while the good sleepers have no trouble doing so.
The experiment consisted of making 57 Dutch participants, 18-70 years of age, relive shameful experiences while their brains were getting MRI scanned. The memories were supposed to be from decades ago.
The brain scans showed that participants who slept well were able to turn shameful experiences into neutralized memories. The insomniacs, on the other hand, had trouble achieving the same neutralization of emotional disturbances.
This discovery fits well with what we already know about the purpose of sleep. It is the time for us to solidify the memories of important experiences but also to address emotionally-distressful aspects of such memories. During sleep, connections between brain cells are either strengthened or weakened, consolidating memories or getting rid of them. Those who are able to do such mental processing without trouble get better sleep.
Interestingly, the study builds upon previous research from the same team where the invoked shame related to making the subjects listen to their karaoke recordings. These were made previously without telling the subjects what they were for, while they had to wear headphones, making their singing even worse.
Responses to novel and relived experiences among the good sleepers vs insomnia sufferers.
Brain/Netherland Institute for Neuroscience.
The study adds to the growing amount of evidence that insomnia risk genes are particularly linked to the limbic circuitry of the brain. More specifically – the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), known to regulate emotion. The researchers implicate this region in "insufficient long-term adaptation to emotional memory" among insomnia-sufferers. Without sleeping well, events that happened decades ago trigger emotional circuits as if they are taking place now.
The findings also relate to the fact that insomnia is a primary risk factor leading up to mood disorders, anxiety and PTSD.
You can read the study, led by Rick Wassing, Frans Schalkwijk and Eus van Someren in the scientific journal Brain.
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A recent study on monkeys found that stimulating a certain part of the forebrain wakes monkeys from anesthesia.
- Scientists electrically stimulated the brains of macaque monkeys in an effort to determine which areas are responsible for driving consciousness.
- The monkeys were anesthetized, and the goal was to see whether activating certain parts of the brain would wake up the animals.
- The forebrain's central lateral thalamus seems to be one of the "minimum mechanisms" necessary for consciousness.
Pixabay<p>When the team electrically stimulated a part of the brain called the central lateral thalamus, located in the forebrain, the monkeys woke up: they opened their eyes, blinked, reached out, made facial expressions and showed altered vital signs. </p><p>"We found that when we stimulated this tiny little brain area, we could wake the animals up and reinstate all the neural activity that you'd normally see in the cortex during wakefulness," Saalmann told Cell Press. "They acted just as they would if they were awake. When we switched off the stimulation, the animals went straight back to being unconscious."</p><p>This area of the brain may function as an "engine for consciousness," Redinbaugh told Inverse. Although past studies have shown that electrical stimulation can arouse the brains of humans and animals, the new findings are unique because they reveal which specific neural interactions appear to be minimally necessary for consciousness.</p><p>"Science doesn't often leave opportunity for exhilaration, but that's what that moment was like for those of us who were in the room," Redinbaugh told <a href="https://www.inverse.com/science/first-squid-mri-study-brain-complexity-similar-dogs" target="_blank"><em>Inverse</em></a><em>.</em></p>
Future applications<p>The team said the findings could have many applications down the road, but more research is needed.</p><p>"The overriding motivation of this research is to help people with disorders of consciousness to live better lives," Redinbaugh told Cell Press. "We have to start by understanding the minimum mechanism that is necessary or sufficient for consciousness, so that the correct part of the brain can be targeted clinically."</p><p>"It's possible we may be able to use these kinds of deep-brain stimulating electrodes to bring people out of comas. Our findings may also be useful for developing new ways to monitor patients under clinical anesthesia, to make sure they are safely unconscious."</p>
The coronavirus pandemic has brought out the perception of selfishness among many.
- Selfish behavior has been analyzed by philosophers and psychologists for centuries.
- New research shows people may be wired for altruistic behavior and get more benefits from it.
- Crisis times tend to increase self-centered acts.
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