Vibratory and auditory stimulation may alter functional connectivity in the brain and improve sleep for patients with insomnia, according to results of a functional MRI study published in Sleep Disorders.
“This study is essential for understanding how vibratory and auditory stimulation can improve sleep amount and sleep quality in [patients with] insomnia,” Daniel Monti, MD, director of the Marcus Institute of Integrative Health at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, said in a press release. “The study shows how the intervention has a direct effect on vibratory and auditory processing areas of the brain, as well as on important cognitive areas that are impaired when people don’t get enough sleep.”
Monti and colleagues noted the well-known association between vibratory and auditory stimuli from vehicles, including trains and cars, and enhanced sleep. Furthermore, recent research has suggested specific types of vibratory and acoustic stimulation may help promote sleep, although neuroimaging has not been used to test this hypothesis, they wrote. The researchers conducted the current study to examine the impact of vibroacoustic stimulation on functional connectivity changes in the brain among patients with insomnia. Additionally, they sought to determine whether these neural changes were associated with sleep improvements.
The investigators randomly assigned 30 patients with insomnia to receive 1 month of a vibroacoustic stimulation (n = 19) or serve as controls on a waitlist (n = 11). They used pre- and postprogram qualitative sleep questionnaires and measurements of sleep duration with an actigraphy watch to evaluate patient outcomes. Further, the researchers assessed patients’ functional connectivity using resting-state functional MRI.
Monti and colleagues found patients in the intervention group experienced significant improvements in measured sleep minutes (mean increase, 30.6 minutes per night; P = .001), as well as a reduction of 3.1 in Insomnia Severity Index scores (P < .001). Moreover, they observed significant changes in functional connectivity in brain regions associated with sensory and auditory reception, as well as higher cognitive and executive functions.
“This preliminary neuroimaging study suggests that future studies are warranted to better explore whether a program of vibroacoustic stimulation is effective [for] patients with insomnia, as well as in those patients with impaired sleep associated with other health problems,” the researchers wrote. – by Joe Gramigna
Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.