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Study shows brains of insomniacs are more adaptable

Insomniacs have a bit more going on in their brain than those who don’t have trouble with sleep. According to a study from Johns Hopkins University of medicine, brains of people who have insomnia have more activity and an increased ‘excitability’ in the neurons that control movement.

Sleeping on the subway
Sleeping on the subwayFlickr Creative Commons, Smath.

According to the Huffington Post on March 1, 28 individuals participated in the study. Ten of the individuals had habits of good sleep and the other 18 had experienced insomnia for a year or more. The participants were monitored while electrical pulses were sent through their thumbs. The involuntary movement of their thumbs was tracked as well as the speed and the director of the movements.

Based on these movements, researchers then spent half an hour training participants to move their thumbs in the direction opposite of their involuntary movement. The ability to learn the new direction showed increased brain plasticity.

Insomniacs were the ones who showed that they had greater brain plasticity, though it was expected that good sleepers would have better plasticity. At this point in the study, it isn’t clear what this exactly means and whether this is a good or bad indication. However, TIME notes that recent studies have pointed to insomnias having a constant ‘on’ state for their brains. This means the brain of insomniacs doesn’t slow down for sleep;it’ll continue to function at high levels all the time.

It also isn’t entirely clear if one is the cause of the other, however, further studies will look into the relationship