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Neural Plasticity
Volume 2018 (2018), Article ID 3678534, 10 pages
Research Article

Age of Insomnia Onset Correlates with a Reversal of Default Mode Network and Supplementary Motor Cortex Connectivity

1Siena Brain Investigation & Neuromodulation Lab (Si-BIN Lab), Department of Medicine, Surgery and Neuroscience, Neurology and Clinical Neurophysiology Section, University of Siena, Siena, Italy
2Berenson-Allen Center for Non-Invasive Brain Stimulation, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA
3Center for Sleep Medicine, “Le Scotte” Hospital, University of Siena, Siena, Italy
4Department of Medicine, Surgery and Neuroscience, University of Siena School of Medicine, Siena, Italy
5Laboratory of Psychophysiology, Chair of Psychiatry, Department of Systems Medicine, University of Rome “Tor Vergata”, Rome, Italy
6Psychiatry and Clinical Psychology Unit, Department of Neurosciences, Fondazione Policlinico “Tor Vergata”, Rome, Italy

Correspondence should be addressed to Emiliano Santarnecchi; ude.dravrah.cmdib@nratnase

Received 17 July 2017; Revised 14 February 2018; Accepted 6 March 2018; Published 1 April 2018

Academic Editor: Stuart C. Mangel

Copyright © 2018 Emiliano Santarnecchi et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Insomnia might occur as result of increased cognitive and physiological arousal caused by acute or long acting stressors and associated cognitive rumination. This might lead to alterations in brain connectivity patterns as those captured by functional connectivity fMRI analysis, leading to potential insight about primary insomnia (PI) pathophysiology as well as the impact of long-term exposure to sleep deprivation. We investigated changes of voxel-wise connectivity patterns in a sample of 17 drug-naïve PI patients and 17 age-gender matched healthy controls, as well as the relationship between brain connectivity and age of onset, illness duration, and severity. Results showed a significant increase in resting-state functional connectivity of the bilateral visual cortex in PI patients, associated with decreased connectivity between the visual cortex and bilateral temporal pole. Regression with clinical scores originally unveiled a pattern of increased local connectivity as measured by intrinsic connectivity contrast (ICC), specifically resembling the default mode network (DMN). Additionally, age of onset was found to be correlated with the connectivity of supplementary motor area (SMA), and the strength of DMN←→SMA connectivity was significantly correlated with both age of onset (R2 = 41%) and disease duration (R2 = 21%). Chronic sleep deprivation, but most importantly early insomnia onset, seems to have a significant disruptive effect over the physiological negative correlation between DMN and SMA, a well-known fMRI marker of attention performance in humans. This suggests the need for more in-depth investigations on the prevention and treatment of connectivity changes and associated cognitive and psychological deficits in PI patients.