New perspectives on brain mechanisms of insomnia
While insomnia is the most common sleep disorder and second most common mental disorder, we’re still in the dark about its brain mechanisms. The project aims for new views on causes and mechanisms.
Insomnia is an often ignored but very common, partly heritable, disorder. Efforts to find underlying malfunctions in sleep-regulating circuits in the brain have not been very successful. New perspectives on brain mechanisms are required to develop better prevention and intervention. The present project will systematically evaluate whether insomnia involves sleep regulating circuits of the brain at all, or rather circuits involved in alertness, consciousness and emotion. Firstly, insomnia might represent a deficiency to shut off brain processes that, during evolution, have been of crucial value for survival, notably monitoring the environment and being prepared for action. Circuits involved in sensorimotor integration could thus be involved. Secondly, ongoing mental content or ‘consciousness’ during sleep may be more common than we tend to believe, calling for attention to circuits involved in consciousness. Thirdly, the round-the-clock hyper-aroused state that characterizes insomnia resembles emotional distress so much, that one may consider insomnia to be a disorder of emotional memory regulation. New insights will aid to bending risk to resilience.
Hammerschlag AR, Stringer S, de Leeuw CA, Sniekers S, Taskesen E, Watanabe K, Blanken TF, Dekker K, Lindert BHt, Wassing R, Jonsdottir I, Thorleifsson G, Stefansson H, Gislason T, Berger K, Schormair B, Wellmann J, Winkelmann J, Stefansson K, Oexle* K, Van Someren* EJW and Posthuma* D (2017) Genome-wide association analysis of insomnia complaints identifies novel risk genes and genetic overlap with psychiatric and metabolic traits. Nat Genet:in press, *authors contributed equally [IF 31.616]
Wassing R, Benjamins JS, Dekker K, Moens S, Spiegelhalder K, Feige B, Riemann D, van der Sluis S, Van Der Werf YD, Talamini LM, Walker MP, Schalkwijk F and Van Someren EJW (2016) Slow dissolving of emotional distress contributes to hyperarousal. PNAS 113:2538-2543. IF 9.809
Stoffers D, Altena E, van der Werf YD, Sanz-Arigita EJ, Voorn TA, Astill RG, Strijers RLM, Waterman D and Van Someren EJW (2014) The caudate: a key node in the neuronal network disbalance of insomnia? Brain 137:610-20. IF 10.226