How knowing the neurobiology could help with tailored treatments for insomnia

Do you know someone with insomnia? The likelihood is yes, because insomnia currently affects up to 30% of Australians. It is also associated with cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases, diabetes, depression, and many more.

Improving the diagnosis and treatment of insomnia is a scientific challenge; the underlying neurobiology of why some people sleep well and others don’t remains a mystery.

One third of insomnia cases are associated with ‘sleep-state misperception’. That is, a large discrepancy between the subjective assessment of sleep (as reported by patients) and objective measurements (obtained by recording brain activity). Recent research suggests sleep-state misperception may be linked to the abnormal recruitment during sleep of neural networks that are usually active during wake. However, such changes in sleep physiology are undetectable with sleep clinics’ routine recordings and analyses.

Thanks to the award of an NMHRC Early Career Fellowship, MICCN’s Dr Thomas Andrillon will try to crack the neurobiology mystery by developing a novel approach to sleep assessment aimed at unravelling robust markers of sleep-state misperception in brain recordings. Through the examination of the sleepers’ response to external or internal stimuli, he will seek to uncover crucial differences between individuals with insomnia and sleep-state misperception, and good sleeping controls. He aims to connect previous models of insomnia with recent discoveries that, through an understanding of the local aspects of sleep and sleep’s permeability to external information, could ultimately lead to tailored diagnoses and treatments for insomnia.

“I am really proud to have been awarded this Fellowship,“ Dr Andrillon said. “It is grounded in my previous work on the sleepers’ ability to process external sensory information. And, by now moving toward a clinical setting, I will enrich my competences through the design of clinical protocols, data acquisition and analyses in a clinical population, and, importantly, the translation of research into clinical practice. It would be wonderful to know that my research is helping more Australians conquer insomnia, and working to reduce that 30% statistic.”

MICCN congratulates Dr Andrillon on his fantastic achievement and looks forward to seeing the future impact of his work.

For more information on his research, contact Dr Thomas Andrillon at

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