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Van Someren Group

ERC-PoC grant for the team of Prof. Eus Van Someren

Prof. Eus Van Someren is one of the fifty-five grantees of the European Research Council who have been awarded ERC Proof of Concept grants. The grant enables the Van Someren group to collaborate with scientists and companies worldwide to implement automated signal analysis tools to complement sleep duration estimates with sleep quality estimates.

Insomnia

What is it about sleep that makes it so vital to health and well-being? It has long been thought that one should just sleep long enough. But recent findings from the ERC-AdG project INSOMNIA show that ‘the more the better’ does not hold for sleep. In fact, long sleep can even have adverse consequences if it isn’t quality sleep. It is not so much the duration of sleep, but rather the quality of sleep that matters.

The project identified that restless sleep interferes with overnight emotional processing and resolving of distress. Very restless sleep can even be maladaptive and worsen distress. In this case ‘the more the worse’ would better describe what sleep could do. And indeed, a little restriction of the time in bed can be beneficial for people who have insomnia complaints that interfere with their daytime functioning.

The increasing interest in sleep have created a consumer market for small devices recording body movements and/or physiological variables. Linked with apps, the devices provide the user with an estimate of the duration of sleep. What current devices miss, is a reliable estimate of the quality of sleep that is so vital to its benefits. With the PoC grant, the team of Van Someren will collaborate with scientists and companies worldwide to implement automated signal analysis tools to complement sleep duration estimates with sleep quality estimates.

ERC PROOF OF CONCEPT

The ERC Proof of Concept (PoC) grants – € 150,000 per project – can be used to explore the commercial or societal potential of research results. For example, the money can be used to research business opportunities, prepare patent applications, or verify the practical feasibility of scientific concepts. The fellowships are part of the EU’s research and innovation program, Horizon 2020.

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Van Someren Group

Against the background of their 24-hour rhythm, driven by the circadian clock of the brain, sleep and wakefulness show a mutual dependency. The Sleep & Cognition group investigates how sleep affects brain function during subsequent wakefulness, and how experiences during wakefulness affect subsequent sleep. We aim firstly to elucidate factors that promote and disturb sleep at the systems level, notably insomnia, and secondly to investigate the brain mechanisms involved in the favorable and disruptive effects on cognition of, respectively, sleep and sleep disturbances. We think it’s important to translate fundamental insights into applications to improve sleep, vigilance and daytime function.

Human research tools include, in addition to the standard sleep-lab, brain imaging (high-density-EEG, MEG, fMRI on 1.5, 3 and soon 7 Tesla), transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), eye-tracking, computerized induction and assessment of task performance. The sleep-lab has a unique setup for comfortable skin temperature clamping in humans. An arsenal of ambulatory monitoring equipment is available. A web-based assessment tool for extensive insomnia and good sleep phenotyping has resulted in a growing database of, at present, 13000 people. The tool is available for other researchers that want to cooperate.

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