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Boston Globe: "I've had insomnia for years. Is there a biological cause?"

November 4, 2008

By Boston Globe writer Judy Foreman, 11/03/2008

"Using a novel form of magnetic resonance technology, a research team from Brigham and Women's Hospital, led by Dr. John Winkelman, a psychiatrist in the division of sleep medicine, discovered that some people with chronic insomnia have lower brain levels of a neurotransmitter called GABA. The study was published over the weekend by the researchers in the journal SLEEP.

"GABA is the brain's major inhibitory transmitter, meaning that it helps reduce activity in the brain's neural circuits. Low levels of brain GABA in people with insomnia may lead to their nervous system being in high gear, both day and night. "Insomnia may be not just a disturbance of sleep but may be a 24-hour a day disorder, one of whose manifestations is insomnia," Winkelman said.

"The study is believed to be the first to link insomnia with a particular biochemical glitch. Although small - 16 people with chronic insomnia and 16 good sleepers - the study is interesting because the people with insomnia were not depressed or anxious."

Read the entire article on the Boston Globe website.

Related links
View the abstract for this paper on the Journal SLEEP website: "Reduced Brain GABA in Primary Insomnia: Preliminary Data from 4T Proton Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (1H-MRS)"
Read the AASM's Press Release on this paper: "Study Links Primary Insomnia to a Neurochemical Abnormality in Young and Middle-Aged Adults"

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