Lack of sleep and sleep disorders is a major issue in ME/CFS that continues to frustrate patients and makes recovery and remission hard to obtain. The thalamus (a right and left pair of brain structures) is a key structure in sleep disorders and in certain cognitive functions previously shown to be impaired in ME/CFS patients.
A recent studyfound that there is a positive relationship between more sleep problems and thalamic volume in ME/CFS patients compared to non-ME/CFS controls. Here are the details:
Twelve right-handed otherwise healthy CFS patients [patients] and 12 age-, gender-, and handedness-matched healthy controls completed the Jenkins Sleep Questionnaire summing up responses on four items asking for a) difficulty in initiating sleep, b) awakening during the night, c) awakening during sleep with difficulty maintaining sleep, and d) awakening exhausted in the morning despite having slept as usual.
Thalamic size was determined by MR-based volumetry.
Logistic regression revealed that sleep problems significantly predicted CFS status (OR = 2.66, 95% CI 1.11-6.38), whereas total thalamic volume and thalamic size of either side did not.
More sleep problems correlated with greater total thalamic volume in patients (r=0.62, 95% CI 0.07-0.88, p=0.032) but not in controls (r=-.034, p=0.30).
In addition, more sleep problems also correlated with right thalamic size in patients (r=0.70, 95% CI 0.21-0.91, p=0.012) but not in controls (r=-.080, p=0.81).
The strength of correlations between sleep problems and total thalamic volume (p=0.028) and right thalamic volume (p=0.046), respectively, differed between patients and controls.
With the findings of this study, researchers feel that there is a basis for further studies on a possible role of the thalamus in sleep complaints and fatigue of patients with ME/CFS.