Thanh Dang-Vu, MD, PhD, a scientist at the PERFORM Center and the Center for Studies in Behavioral Neurobiology at Concordia University, is leading an investigation into the brain activity of insomniacs.

The Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) recently donated more than $35 million to Canadian universities to enable researchers and scientists to equip their facilities with state-of-the-art tools. One of the recipients was Thanh Dang-Vu, MD, PhD, a scientist at the PERFORM Center and the Center for Studies in Behavioral Neurobiology at Concordia University. Dang-Vu is leading an investigation into the brain activities of insomniacs, and the evidence collected will serve as a basis for cognitive therapies that may help those who suffer with insomnia in the future.

A Hub for Sleep Study

Dang-Vu and his research team are based in Montreal, a city he says is a hub for medical research, specifically in neuroscience-related fields. He says, “It is really unique to find in the same city so many experts in sleep research and sleep medicine, and some groundbreaking discoveries in the field were made here. In addition, there are numerous possibilities of collaborations with colleagues and labs from germane fields….This highly facilitates the potential for innovative and exciting research developments.”

Insomnia: A Closer Look

The research led by Dang-Vu focuses on the brain activity of insomniacs. Dang-Vu says, “The goal of our research on insomnia is to better link the causes of insomnia with the treatments that can be offered. There are very few research studies that have made direct connections between the brain mechanisms of insomnia and the efficacy of treatment options.” Dang-Vu says the primary goal of the study is to shape “individually-tailored” treatments for insomnia based on underlying mechanisms.

Dang-Vu’s team is examining different perspectives of the brain activity of individuals with insomnia. One of the perspectives is “constituted by the oscillations of electrical signal detected on the electroencephalography during sleep, and which reflect the activity of vast populations of neurons during sleep. These brain oscillations of sleep are important because they reflect the integrity and quality of sleep at different levels,” Dang-Vu says. The scientist adds that these patterns vary from person to person and may explain why some people are more susceptible to developing sleep disturbances.

Funding for Research

This the first time Dang-Vu has received research funding from CFI. He says, “This foundation is one of the very few in Canada that fund the development of new research infrastructures for innovative research programs, ie, state-of-the-art equipment and facilities.” Dang-Vu says the equipment needed for this innovative study will include technology for polysomnography. He says, “They will be doing PSGs in the lab using various setups—some with regular PSGs, others with more complex setups with a higher number of electrodes, depending on the needs. Some projects might require home sleep tests for populations with less mobility.”

The research study has already started and Dang-Vu anticipates it will last for several years. He says, “I am very honored and grateful for the opportunities provided by CFI. The development of our research program could not take place without this unique opportunity.”

Cassandra Perez is associate editor of Sleep Review. CONTACT [email protected]