Poor sleep quality is associated with brain changes in the form of reduced gray matter in the frontal lobe, according to a new study of Gulf War vets.
The findings are especially important given the frontal lobe plays an important role in controlling working memory and executive functioning, researchers said.
The study, published in the journal Sleep, is based on sleep and brain imaging data from 144 Gulf War veterans and was conducted by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco.
MRI brain imaging was conducted to determine volume of the hippocampus, total cortical gray matter and lobar gray matter. The participants' sleep quality was also analyzed.
Even after taking into account factors such as PTSD, psychotropic medication use, depression and Gulf War Illness, researchers found an association between poor quality sleep and decreased regional frontal lobe and total cortical gray matter volume. However, they noted that the study was not able to deduce whether poor quality sleep caused these decreases in gray matter volume.
In 2010, another study in the journal Sleep showed decreases in gray matter concentration in the brains of people who had severe obstructive sleep apnea, particularly in the cerebellum, prefrontal cortices and the limbic structures.