Neuroimaging of NREM sleep in primary insomnia: A Tc-99-HMPAO single photon emission computed tomography study

Michael T. Smith, Michael L. Perils, Vaseem U. Chengazi, Jae Mi Pennington, James Soeffing, Jean M. Ryan, Donna E. Giles

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

92 Scopus citations


Study Objectives: The objectives of this study were to: 1) demonstrate the feasibility of combining polysomnography and SPECT neuroimaging to study NREM sleep in primary insomnia and 2) evaluate possible functional CNS abnormalities associated with insomnia. Design: Patients with insomnia and good sleeper controls were studied polysomnographically for three nights with a whole brain SPECT Scan of NREM sleep on Night 3. Groups were screened for medical/psychiatric history, substance use, and matched on age, body mass index, and education. Setting: Sleep Research Laboratory and Nuclear Medicine Center Participants: Nine females, 5 patients with chronic psychophysiologic insomnia and 4 healthy good sleepers (mean age 36 years, SD 12, range 27-55). Interventions: N/A Measurements and Results: Tomographs of regional cerebral blood flow during the 1st NREM sleep cycle were successfully obtained. Contrary to our expectations, patients with insomnia showed a consistent pattern of hypoperfusion across all 8 pre-selected regions of interest, with particular deactivation in the basal ganglia (p=.006). The frontal medial, occipital, and parietal cortices also showed significant decreases in blood flow compared to good sleepers (p<.05). Subjects with insomnia had decreased activity in the basal ganglia relative to the frontal lateral cortex, frontal medial cortex, thalamus, occipital and parietal cortices (p<.05). Conclusions: This study demonstrated the feasibility of combining neuroimaging and polysomnography to study cerebral activity in chronic insomnia. These preliminary results suggest that primary insomnia may be associated with abnormal central nervous system activity during NREM sleep that is particularly linked to basal ganglia dysfunction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)325-335
Number of pages11
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2002


  • Basal ganglia
  • Central nervous system
  • Cerebral perfusion
  • Insomnia
  • Neuroimaging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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