There’s an intriguing video over on the NOVA scienceNOW website – a show on the U.S. Public Broadcasting Station. (Basically, it aims to provide interesting scientific information in roughly 10 minute segments.)

The episode in question has to do with sleep and memory. It covers such things as fruit fly sleep (and areas of their brains that are active when sleeping), rats who dream of mazes, and human memory. I won’t include too many spoilers, but suffice it to say that there seems to be a strong possibility that sleep is related to memory in humans. It also seems to affect learning. Think about studying for an exam before bed, and that information being reinforced overnight. Or what about those times people decide to “sleep on a problem.”

I can’t help wondering what exactly that means for people with fibromyalgia. If we don’t sleep well, does that affect our memories? Perhaps this connection between sleep and memory accounts for fibro fog. All this is, of course, my own personal speculation. It seems that other people have already thought of it. According to Arthritis Today,

One of the most popular theories about fibro fog has been that these problems are caused by sleep deprivation and/or depression, but one study [note: one] found that neither poor sleep nor depression seemed related to cognitive performance.  Brain scan studies have shown that from time to time, people with fibromyalgia do not receive enough oxygen in different parts of their brain. One possible reason is that part of their nervous system is off-kilter, causing changes in the brain’s blood vessels.

New research – though not on fibromyalgia specifically – shows that chronic pain itself may affect the brain. A technology called functional MRI found that in people with chronic pain, a front region of the brain mostly associated with emotion is constantly active. The affected areas fail to “shut off” when they should, wearing out neurons and disturbing the balance of the brain as a whole.

Again my own speculation – sleep, pain, and the brain are such complex issues that perhaps there are multiple causes at play. I guess I’ll be researching chronic pain and the brain next.

Regardless of my own pet theories, I like keeping up to date on sleep research. I hope you enjoy the video as well – it’s about 12 minutes, and quite entertaining.

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