It seems that the human brain is never really quite asleep.
Researchers from the Cyclotron Research Centre of the University of Liège in Belgium and from the Department of Neurology of Liege University Hospital show that, despite its deepest stages of ‘slow-wave-sleep’, non-REM sleep should not be considered as a stage of constant and continuous brain activity decrease, but characterized by increased, but intermittent as well as recurrent activity increases in specific brain areas.
Researchers, led by Dr Thanh Dang-Vu and Pr Pierre Maquet shows that brain activity during various sleep stages is can profoundlyand spontaneously effect slow rhythms (also called ‘slow oscillations’) which organize neuronal functioning during non-REM sleep.
Whats new in this study is that by using fMRI, (functional MRI) and EEG brain mapping together, scientists were able to approximate where in the brain this slow wave activity was happening. These areas included the inferior frontal gyrus, the parahippocampal gyrus, the precuneus and the posterior cingulate cortex, as well as the brainstem and cerebellum (see image panels).
By understanding where these slow wave oscillation are in the brain, future research can be made to better target why we sleep and how best to help those suffering from sleep disorders including insomnia.
David A. Mayen is the founder and CEO for the Sleep Recovery Centers, Inc. A specialty practice using neurofeedback to treat insomnia without the use of medications.
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