December 7, 2022

The Indie Toaster

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Another Sleep Mystery Solved – 11/14/2022 – Susana Herculano-Hausel

More than twenty-four thousand neuroscientists from different countries will return to their labs this week at the annual meeting in the United States, full of business cards and new information and ideas.

I was exceptionally home because my parents were coming for my 50th birthday, although the US Consulate messed up my plans by denying my mother a visa – proof that having a green card in this country doesn’t make the family welcome, but that’s another story. I’ve also traveled enough this year that while my colleagues exchange stickers in person, I review the literature.

In my pile of promising titles I found an article in the journal Science from August that solved a 70-year-old puzzle: Where do rapid eye movements during sleep come from? dreams🇧🇷 Are they random, or do they coincide with eye and head movements in your dreaming?

Yuta Sensei and Massimo Scanciani of the University of California, San Francisco respond. Both took advantage of the fact that while tracking eye movements, with electrodes implanted in the brains of mice, they could record the activity of neurons in the thalamus that indicate the current direction of the head in the horizontal plane. real time.

When the animal is awake and exploring the environment, eye and head movements are perfectly matched: the second immediately follows the first – exactly as Daniel Bilho’s Regina Duarte tip teaches her to raise her eyes before raising her head in front of the camera. (The trick obviously appealed to me, I’m a girl and I remember!).

Logic: Eyes automatically move to what you’re moving; The head follows—and when the new target is face-to-face, a very cool reflex that surrounds the floor of the inner ear moves the eyes back to the center of the orbit.

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Sensei and Scanciani discovered that when the animal falls asleep and begins to dream…the eye movements that occur continuously, precisely move forward a new virtual direction of the head signaled by the thalamus.

A simple explanation for this phenomenon is that Dream content – Images, sounds, touches and internal planes represented by the brain – cause eye movements, which almost “move” the dreaming head.

But while dreaming, the head and other parts of the body, are paralyzed and not really moving, so it is not a reflection of the floor that brings the vision back to the center. No problem: perhaps due to the virtual movement of the head, caused and represented by the brain, the eyes soon move in the same direction in the opposite direction.

What mice dream about, we still do not know. But the new finding seems to me to be a strong indication that the eyes actually move when we mentally perform our actions. dreams.

Hmmm. All the more reason to close my eyes and sleep…


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