Insomnia and depression linked in brain's emotional regulators

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New research shows a link between insomnia and depression.

There is now neurobiological evidence of dysfunction in the neural circuitry underlying emotion regulation in people with chronic insomnia.

“Insomnia has been consistently identified as a risk factor for depression,” noted lead author Peter Franzen, PhD, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. “Alterations in the brain circuitry underlying emotion regulation may be involved in the pathway for depression, and these results suggest a mechanistic role for sleep disturbance in the development of psychiatric disorders.”

Emotional regulation center disrupted by sleep deprivation

There could be a causal relationship in which insomnia creates enough of a disturbance in the emotional regulators of the brain to lead to depression.

For the study, researchers looked at people with chronic primary insomnia and no other psychiatric disorders. Through the use of functional MRI, researchers noted that the activity in the amygdala, the emotional regulation center of the brain, was more significantly active when the patients were asked to regulate or reappraise their emotions (suppress negative feelings) than for people without insomnia.

Not what researchers expected to find

“Previous studies have demonstrated that successful emotion regulation using reappraisal decreases amygdala response in healthy individuals,” noted Franzen, “yet we were surprised that activity was even higher during reappraisal of, versus passive viewing of, pictures with negative emotional content in this sample of individuals with primary insomnia.”

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine states that 10 to 15 percent of adults have a sleeping disorder that leads to distress and daytime impairment. Knowing that there is a direct link to depression can help doctors address this risk.

Source: MedicalNewsToday, American Academy of Sleep Medicine

 
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