Discuss explanations of sleepwalking

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Discuss explanations of sleepwalking
Introduction: Sleepwalking (somnambulism) is a condition where walking and sleeping occur at
the same time, there are 3 explanations of sleepwalking: psychodynamic, neural and genetic.
AO1 Psychodynamic: The psychodynamic theory suggests that sleepwalking is the
expression of unresolved conscious conflicts. The sleepwalker is, in effect, `acting out' repressed
conflicts. The later finding that sleepwalking occurs during SWS was seen to support the
psychodynamic theory, since the conditions of SWS are ideal for this to happen ­ the likelihood of
recalling harmful repressed memories is minimal during this phase of sleep.
AO2 Psychodynamic: The psychodynamic explanation of sleepwalking is supported by a case
study (Abrams), it was suggested that the sleepwalking of the woman was a cry for help ­ the
stealing being the reflection of her need to take control of her life. The woman is seen to be acting
out repressed conflicts during her sleep, therefore supporting the psychodynamic theory. The
psychodynamic explanation is an excepted theory of sleepwalking as there is no evidence to
disprove and can be explained through case studies such as Abrams. However, there is no evidence
to prove that the psychodynamic theory causes sleepwalking therefore researchers now agree that
the disorder is the result of underlying biological mechanisms such as the neural and genetic
AO1 Neural: The neural explanation of sleepwalking suggests that sleepwalking is caused by
immaturity of neural circuits in the brain causing the brain to be in a different state than normal
sleepers. This is demonstrated by Olivero who found that sleepwalking is more frequent in children
because the inhibitory system is underdeveloped, so that insufficient quantities of GABA allow motor
activity (GABA is released during in normal sleepers to prevent activity in the motor system, causing
loss of muscle tone). He also found that adult sleepwalking is a result of the inhibitory GABA
mechanism remaining underdeveloped, which demonstrates that the neural explanation is the cause
of sleepwalking.
AO2 Neural: However, Olivero's research has been criticised as it may be that sleepwalking in
children has been observed more therefore child sleepwalking is being reported more due to
parents worry over their child. It is less likely to be observed in adults as they may live alone and may
be unaware of their sleepwalking at night or may be less worried than a parent would be about their
child. If the neural explanation was the cause of sleepwalking then all children would be sleepwalking
as it takes years for the inhibitory system to develop, therefore another theory to explain the cause
of sleepwalking is genetics, which may explain why some children and adult's inhibitory system is less
developed than normal.
AO1 Genetics: The genetic explanation of sleepwalking suggests that sleepwalking is caused by
our genes, either through a mutation of the genes or genes that have been inherited from our
parents. Research to demonstrate that there is a genetic cause of sleepwalking was carried out by
Bakwin on identical and non-identical twins. Bakwin found a concordance rate in sleepwalking of
47% for MZ twins (that share 100% of their genes) and 7% for DZ twins (that share 50% of their
genes) which show a genetic basis of sleepwalking.

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AO2 Genetics: Research to support Bakwin and the genetic basis of sleepwalking was carried
out by Bassetti, this research suggests that sleepwalking may be related to the same HLA gene
abnormality associated with narcolepsy. He found that 50% of sleepwalkers had a version of the HLA
gene in only 24% of non-sleepwalkers, which supports there is a genetic basis for incomplete
arousal.…read more


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