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  • Insomniacs have different brains! Weird brains! Super tired brains. God, I hate my insomnia.

  • Anthony Carboni here for DNews and I had the worst insomnia from junior high almost all

  • the way up through college. It's awful. You're always drained, you can't think straight,

  • you're depressed. While insomnia can be a symptom of a lot of things, we've never really

  • pinpointed what the physiological change is in the body that makes it happen specifically.

  • Now, I never saw a specialist about it, but I'm pretty sure I had Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder-

  • it's common in teenagers and it basically means your circadian rhythm is all off-balance-

  • your biological clock doesn't match up with the day and night cycle. It can get less severe

  • as you get older- mine only happens for a couple weeks a time now, then goes away for

  • a bit.

  • Insomnia can also be caused by psychological things like stress or physical issues like

  • sleep apnea. But researchers looking to start treating insomnia at the biological root of

  • the problem found a potential culprit: plasticity in the brain's motor cortex.

  • We've talked about neuroplasticity before: its your brain's ability to adapt and change

  • to different stimuli and situations. It means if you want to change your habits or get better

  • at something, you can because your brain will adapt to it eventually. The going theory was

  • that since people who suffer from insomnia have decreased memory and a hard time concentrating

  • and retaining information, their brains would be less plastic. Maybe being unable to process

  • all that daytime info leads to sleeping problems.

  • But a new study out of Johns Hopkins university says no- an insomniac's motor cortex is more

  • adaptable than someone who can sleep easily. They hooked up some healthy sleepers and insomniacs

  • to electrodes and tried some transcranial magnetic stimulation or TMS on them. Basically,

  • it delivers precise levels of electrical currents to parts of the brain- but not in a weird,

  • shock therapy, seen it in the movies way. In a more controlled, FDA approved, let's study

  • the brain and try to help people sort of way.

  • So, they basically trained the sleeping subjects, using TMS, to move their thumbs in a certain

  • way in reaction to stimulation. I feel like the more I explain this, the less safe TMS

  • is actually going to sound. AAAAANYWAY. Then they tried to retrain the subjects to have

  • their thumbs move in the OTHER direction. And the insomniacs adapted to the change much

  • more easily.

  • So- what does that mean? Is neuroplasticity bad? Is it causing insomnia or is it from the brain

  • of an insomniac trying help the body cope with all the other physical and emotional

  • stresses that come with a lack of sleep?

  • This is where I go "The researchers aren't sure," and you all groan, thumbs down and throw rotten

  • vegetables at me. But here's what's good and exciting about the research: if the overly

  • changeable motor cortex is connected to releasing all the stress hormones and causing all the

  • other emotional issues of insomnia, TMS could be used to calm the brain down and help people

  • get into the habit of healthy sleep. It'll also make diagnosing legitimate insomnia much

  • easier- right now there's no way to objectively test for it, so a lot of people think they're

  • insomniacs when they have other, more easily treatable issues- and vice versa.

  • In the meantime, if you're up, you can always tweet at me. There's a good chance I am up, too

  • You know, also thumb up the video. You're just sitting up in the dark. Just thumb up the video.

Insomniacs have different brains! Weird brains! Super tired brains. God, I hate my insomnia.

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