May 17, 2020

How are Insomniacs Brains' Affected by Lack of Sleep?

3 min
How are Insomniacs Brains’ Affected by Lack of Sleep.jpg
Written by Alyssa Clark Surprisingly, the answer might be not at all. With 10 to 15 percent of adults suffering from insomnia, specifically speaking o...

Written by Alyssa Clark


Surprisingly, the answer might be not at all.

With 10 to 15 percent of adults suffering from insomnia, specifically speaking of middle-aged and older adults, women and/or some people who suffer from mental health problems, a UC study was recently conducted to provide a “psychological explanation of why [individuals with insomnia] may have trouble in their day-today functioning” says the study’s co-director Nathaniel Watson.

The common understanding of those who suffer from insomnia is that they don’t simply suffer at night; they suffer through their dragged-out days with overwhelming feelings of fatigue, confusion and trouble upholding a solid work or school performance. However, the evidence suggested by this recent study turns this classic understanding of insomnia on its head, and causes us to rethink if insomniac’s performance truly is inferior to non-insomniacs. Recent studies suggest that insomniacs performance does not differ in adequate ways from non-insomniacs, it simply only feels as such to the insomniac performers.

With the help of brain imaging technology, researchers evaluated 25 insomniacs and 25 normal sleepers as they performed eight-minute working memory tasks, involving the processing and storing of short-term memory. One at a time, testing subjects underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging scans while reviewing letters projected on a screen, and were asked to identify which were repeats of letters displayed earlier in the sequence.

"They're doing the task just fine but [the insomniacs] subjective sense is sort of like they're running through mud," said Dr. Drummond. "It's just so much harder to do."

The study showed that as the information increased in difficulty, the normal sleepers had increased activity in parts of the brain such as in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex while insomnia subjects didn’t. Poor sleepers seemed to struggle in turning of the brain’s “mind wandering” regions, otherwise known throughout the study as the “default mode” network which is located in the midline. Normally these regions remain active when a person is not engaged in goal-directed behavior and they are suppressed when a person switches to a task.

"For the good healthy sleepers, the harder the task becomes the more they recruited the working memory parts of the brain," he added. "The insomnia patients, in contrast, weren't able to ramp up these parts of the brain the way they should have." The subjects with insomnia had primary insomnia, meaning their difficulties falling asleep or staying asleep weren't related to a health condition, such as sleep apnea.

"I kind of wonder whether that may be a neurosignature of the experience of insomnia, where people say, 'I feel like I wasn't asleep all night,' " Dr. Buysse, professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburg says, “The ultimate goal”, he said, “is to see how treatment affects the brain activity”.

"If there are particular regions in the brain that are more active in people with insomnia when they're asleep, we might think of other techniques" for treatment, he said. For example, transcranial magnetic stimulation, a method of treating disorders such as depression and anxiety, can change activity in specific brain regions.


About the Author

Alyssa Clark is the Editor of Healthcare Global

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Jun 17, 2021

Peloton vulnerable to cyber attacks, McAfee research finds

2 min
​​​​​​​Software security experts McAfee discovered exercise bikes by Peloton are vulnerable to cyber attacks, which the company have since resolved 

Peloton, the popular exercise bikes, were found to be vulnerable to cyber attacks in the latest research from McAfee. 

Peloton is a brand of electric bikes that combines high end exercise equipment with cutting-edge technology. Its products use wi fi to connect to a large tablet that interfaces with the components of the exercise device, and provides an easy way for physical activity enthusiasts to attend virtual workout classes over the internet several times a week.

Peloton has garnered attention recently around the privacy and security of its products. So McAfee decided to take a look for themselves and purchased a Peloton Bike+.

The problem

Researchers looked at the Android devices and uncovered a vulnerability  that could allow an attacker with either physical access to the Bike+ or access during any point in the supply chain to gain to hack into the bike’s tablet, including the camera, microphone and personal data. 

For the person using it there would be no indication the Bike+ has been tampered with, potentially putting Peloton’s 16.7 million users at risk.  

The flaw was found in the Android Verified Boot (AVB) process. McAfee researchers were able to bypass the Android Verified Boot process, which normally verifies all code and data before booting. They were then able to get the device to boot bypassing this step. 

This could potentially lead to the Android OS being compromised by an attacker who is physically present. Even worse, the attacker could boot up the Peloton with a modified credential to gain privileges, granting them access to the bike remotely. 

As the attacker never has to unlock the device to boot it up, there would be no trace of their access on the device. This type of attack could also happen at any point from construction to warehouse to delivery, by installing a backdoor into the Android tablet without the user ever knowing. 

The solution

Given the simplicity and criticality of the flaw, McAfee informed Peloton while auditing was ongoing. The vendor was sent full details,  and shortly after, Peloton confirmed the issue and released a fix for it. 

Further conversations between McAfee and  Peloton confirmed that this vulnerability had also been present on the Peloton Tread exercise equipment. 

Peloton’s Head of Global Information Security Adrian Stone, commented on the research: “This vulnerability reported by McAfee would require direct, physical access to a Peloton Bike+ or Tread. Like with any connected device in the home, if an attacker is able to gain physical access to it, additional physical controls and safeguards become increasingly important.

"To keep our members safe, we acted quickly and in coordination with McAfee. We pushed a mandatory update in early June and every device with the update installed is protected from this issue.”

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