Poor Sleep Quality is Associated with Reduced Myelination in Patients with Psychotic Disorders

Lauren Watford, BA

McLean Hospital
Poor Sleep Quality is Associated with Reduced Myelination in Patients with Psychotic Disorders

Scientific Abstract

Background: Recent studies show that sleep favors oligodendrocyte proliferation and myelination, and sleep loss is associated with alterations in white matter structure and decreased myelination. Psychotic disorders are characterized by disrupted white matter integrity, and abnormal axon and myelin structure. Despite common sleep disturbances in these disorders, little is known about the relationship between sleep quality and white matter findings. A novel in vivo neuroimaging technique that combines diffusion tensor spectroscopy (DTS) and magnetization transfer ratio (MTR) allows separately examining the axon structure and glial function, and myelin content, respectively. Using this method, we examined the association of sleep quality with white matter biology in a sample of patients with psychotic disorders and matched healthy controls.

Methods: Participants included patients with bipolar disorder with psychotic features (euthymic or depressed, n=12) and schizophrenia spectrum disorders (n=9), and age and sex matched healthy controls (n=20). DTS and MTR data was collected from the right prefrontal white matter at 4T. DTS measures included apparent diffusion coefficients of water, NAA, creatine and choline. Sleep quality was measured using Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI).

Results: PSQI total score was significantly higher in patients. and patient sample included a higher percentage of poor sleepers (PSQI total score>5). In patients, total PSQI score and sleep onset latency were significantly and negatively associated with MTR (F=6.9, p=0.02 and F=9.7, p=0.007, respectively). There was no difference in any DTS measures between groups.

Conclusion: Our preliminary results show that poor sleep quality is associated with decreased myelin content in the frontal lobe, in patients with psychotic disorders. This finding suggests that sleep loss may be a mediator of white matter alterations in psychosis.

Live Zoom Session – April 21st

research Areas


Lauren Watford, BA, Xi Chen, PhD, Kathryn Lewandowski, PhD, Margaret Gardner, BS, Dost Ongur, MD, PhD, Fei Du, PhD, Cagri Yuksel, MD

Principal Investigator

Dost Ongur, MD, PhD