Friday, September 09, 2022

Eye movements are related to the contents of consciousness in REM (rapid eye movment) sleep

Senzai and Scanziani have recorded head direction cells in the anterior dorsal nucleus of the thalamus in mice during wake and sleep. The direction and amplitude of eye movements encoded the direction and amplitude of the heading of mice in their virtual environment during REM sleep. It was possible to predict the actual heading in the real and virtual world of the mice during wake and REM sleep, respectively, using saccadic eye movements. Their abstract:
Since the discovery of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, the nature of the eye movements that characterize this sleep phase has remained elusive. Do they reveal gaze shifts in the virtual environment of dreams or simply reflect random brainstem activity? We harnessed the head direction (HD) system of the mouse thalamus, a neuronal population whose activity reports, in awake mice, their actual HD as they explore their environment and, in sleeping mice, their virtual HD. We discovered that the direction and amplitude of rapid eye movements during REM sleep reveal the direction and amplitude of the ongoing changes in virtual HD. Thus, rapid eye movements disclose gaze shifts in the virtual world of REM sleep, thereby providing a window into the cognitive processes of the sleeping brain.

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