Pineal gland volume in primary insomnia and healthy controls: a magnetic resonance imaging study
Little is known about the relation between pineal volume and insomnia. Melatonin promotes sleep processes and, administered as a drug, it is suitable to improve primary and secondary sleep disorders in humans. Recent magnetic resonance imaging studies suggest that human plasma and saliva melatonin levels are partially determined by the pineal gland volume. This study compares the pineal volume in a group of patients with primary insomnia to a group of healthy people without sleep disturbance. Pineal gland volume (PGV) was measured on the basis of high‐resolution 3 Tesla MRI (T1‐magnetization prepared rapid gradient echo) in 23 patients and 27 controls, matched for age, gender and educational status. Volume measurements were performed conventionally by manual delineation of the pineal borders in multi‐planar reconstructed images. Pineal gland volume was significantly smaller (P < 0.001) in patients (48.9 ± 26.6 mm3) than in controls (79 ± 30.2 mm3). In patients PGV correlated negatively with age (r = −0.532; P = 0.026). Adjusting for the effect of age, PGV and rapid eye movement (REM) latency showed a significant positive correlation (r S = 0.711, P < 0.001) in patients. Pineal volume appears to be reduced in patients with primary insomnia compared to healthy controls. Further studies are needed to clarify whether low pineal volume is the basis or the consequence of functional sleep changes to elucidate the molecular pathology for the pineal volume loss in primary insomnia.
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