Brain Damage Linked to Insomnia

New research is shedding light on the mystery that is insomnia.  According to a study released by the University of Wisconsin in Madison, damage to a specific spot in their brains (highlighted in the image below) can create the inability to fall asleep … otherwise known as insomnia.

The research was published in the Journal of Neuroscience.  It suggests that people with damage to a specific region on one side of the brain – the left dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (dmPPFC) – also reported having moderate to severe insomnia.

Michael Koenigs, assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, queried 192 brain-injured Vietnam veterans who are part of a study group at the National Institutes of Health about a number of issues, including insomnia.

Previous CT scans of the veterans have mapped the exact locale of their brain injuries or lesions, most of them caused by shrapnel or other penetrating injuries.

Koenigs’ team found a strong correlation between moderate to severe insomnia and damage to the dmPPFC on the left side of the brain.

He says that other sleep studies that use brain imaging in healthy subjects have suggested that the slow waves associated with deep sleep originate in the left insula and propagate along the left cingulate corridor, passing through the left dmPPFC.

The veterans who reported trouble sleeping were those whose lesions blocked this pathway of sleep brain waves.

“We believe this is the first study linking damage to a discrete part of the brain to insomnia,” Koenigs says. He thinks that future studies actually measuring the sleep brain waves of patients could provide further evidence for the importance of this area of the brain in promoting and maintaining sleep.

Source: News Release