Brain rhythum Study
People who have trouble sleeping in noisy environments often resort to strategies like earplugs or noise-canceling headphones that muffle the sound, but a new study from investigators at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) may lead to ways to block disturbing sounds within the brain. The team reports finding a brain-wave pattern, reflecting activity of a key structure, that predicts the ease at which sleep can be disrupted by noise.
“We wanted to investigate what the brain does to promote stable sleep, even in the face of noise, and why some people are better at staying asleep than others,” said Jeffrey Ellenbogen, MD, chief of the MGH Division of Sleep Medicine. “Understanding the tools and techniques the brain naturally uses could help us harness and expand those responses to help stay asleep in noisy environments.”
Upon entering the brain, most sensory information, including sound, passes through a deep-brain structure called the thalamus on its way to the cortex where signals are perceived. Communication between these structures continues during sleep and is reflected by fluctuations in the brain’s electrical field, producing rhythmic patterns detected through electroencephalography (EEG). Typical EEG patterns are used to distinguish stages of sleep, and in the second and third stages, slow brain wave patterns are interspersed with brief, rapid pulses called spindles.