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Concept: Rapid eye movement sleep


The thermal environment is one of the most important factors that can affect human sleep. The stereotypical effects of heat or cold exposure are increased wakefulness and decreased rapid eye movement sleep and slow wave sleep. These effects of the thermal environment on sleep stages are strongly linked to thermoregulation, which affects the mechanism regulating sleep. The effects on sleep stages also differ depending on the use of bedding and/or clothing. In semi-nude subjects, sleep stages are more affected by cold exposure than heat exposure. In real-life situations where bedding and clothing are used, heat exposure increases wakefulness and decreases slow wave sleep and rapid eye movement sleep. Humid heat exposure further increases thermal load during sleep and affects sleep stages and thermoregulation. On the other hand, cold exposure does not affect sleep stages, though the use of beddings and clothing during sleep is critical in supporting thermoregulation and sleep in cold exposure. However, cold exposure affects cardiac autonomic response during sleep without affecting sleep stages and subjective sensations. These results indicate that the impact of cold exposure may be greater than that of heat exposure in real-life situations; thus, further studies are warranted that consider the effect of cold exposure on sleep and other physiological parameters.

Concepts: Effect, Sleep, Affect, Circadian rhythm, Rapid eye movement sleep


Mammalian sleep consists of distinct rapid eye movement (REM) and non-REM (NREM) states. The midbrain region ventrolateral periaqueductal gray (vlPAG) is known to be important for gating REM sleep, but the underlying neuronal mechanism is not well understood. Here, we show that activating vlPAG GABAergic neurons in mice suppresses the initiation and maintenance of REM sleep while consolidating NREM sleep, partly through their projection to the dorsolateral pons. Cell-type-specific recording and calcium imaging reveal that most vlPAG GABAergic neurons are strongly suppressed at REM sleep onset and activated at its termination. In addition to the rapid changes at brain state transitions, their activity decreases gradually between REM sleep and is reset by each REM episode in a duration-dependent manner, mirroring the accumulation and dissipation of REM sleep pressure. Thus, vlPAG GABAergic neurons powerfully gate REM sleep, and their firing rate modulation may contribute to the ultradian rhythm of REM/NREM alternation.

Concepts: Nervous system, Brain, Sleep, Hippocampus, Rapid eye movement sleep, Non-rapid eye movement sleep, Dream, Sleep physiology


Insomnia is the most common sleep complaint which occurs due to difficulty in falling asleep or maintaining it. Most of currently available drugs for insomnia develop dependency and/or adverse effects. Hence natural therapies could be an alternative choice of treatment for insomnia. The root or whole plant extract of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) has been used to induce sleep in Indian system of traditional home medicine, Ayurveda. However, its active somnogenic components remain unidentified. We investigated the effect of various components of Ashwagandha leaf on sleep regulation by oral administration in mice. We found that the alcoholic extract that contained high amount of active withanolides was ineffective to induce sleep in mice. However, the water extract which contain triethylene glycol as a major component induced significant amount of non-rapid eye movement sleep with slight change in rapid eye movement sleep. Commercially available triethylene glycol also increased non-rapid eye movement sleep in mice in a dose-dependent (10-30 mg/mouse) manner. These results clearly demonstrated that triethylene glycol is an active sleep-inducing component of Ashwagandha leaves and could potentially be useful for insomnia therapy.

Concepts: Sleep, Alternative medicine, Circadian rhythm, Rapid eye movement sleep, Insomnia, Withania somnifera, Withania, Ashwagandha


Adaptation is an automatic neural mechanism supporting the optimization of visual processing on the basis of previous experiences. While the short-term effects of adaptation on behaviour and physiology have been studied extensively, perceptual long-term changes associated with adaptation are still poorly understood. Here, we show that the integration of adaptation-dependent long-term shifts in neural function is facilitated by sleep. Perceptual shifts induced by adaptation to a distorted image of a famous person were larger in a group of participants who had slept (experiment 1) or merely napped for 90 min (experiment 2) during the interval between adaptation and test compared with controls who stayed awake. Participants' individual rapid eye movement sleep duration predicted the size of post-sleep behavioural adaptation effects. Our data suggest that sleep prevented decay of adaptation in a way that is qualitatively different from the effects of reduced visual interference known as ‘storage’. In the light of the well-established link between sleep and memory consolidation, our findings link the perceptual mechanisms of sensory adaptation-which are usually not considered to play a relevant role in mnemonic processes-with learning and memory, and at the same time reveal a new function of sleep in cognition.

Concepts: Time, Psychology, Sleep, Neuroscience, Cognition, Memory, Visual system, Rapid eye movement sleep


Sleep and memory are deeply related, but the nature of the neuroplastic processes induced by sleep remains unclear. Here, we report that memory traces can be both formed or suppressed during sleep, depending on sleep phase. We played samples of acoustic noise to sleeping human listeners. Repeated exposure to a novel noise during Rapid Eye Movements (REM) or light non-REM (NREM) sleep leads to improvements in behavioral performance upon awakening. Strikingly, the same exposure during deep NREM sleep leads to impaired performance upon awakening. Electroencephalographic markers of learning extracted during sleep confirm a dissociation between sleep facilitating memory formation (light NREM and REM sleep) and sleep suppressing learning (deep NREM sleep). We can trace these neural changes back to transient sleep events, such as spindles for memory facilitation and slow waves for suppression. Thus, highly selective memory processes are active during human sleep, with intertwined episodes of facilitative and suppressive plasticity.Though memory and sleep are related, it is still unclear whether new memories can be formed during sleep. Here, authors show that people could learn new sounds during REM or light non-REM sleep, but that learning was suppressed when sounds were played during deep NREM sleep.

Concepts: Psychology, Sleep, Memory, Rapid eye movement sleep, Non-rapid eye movement sleep, Dream, Slow-wave sleep, Sleep physiology


Sleep has been observed in several invertebrate species, but its presence in marine invertebrates is relatively unexplored. Rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep has only been observed in vertebrates. We investigated whether the cuttlefish Sepia officinalis displays sleep-like states. We find that cuttlefish exhibit frequent quiescent periods that are homeostatically regulated, satisfying two criteria for sleep. In addition, cuttlefish transiently display a quiescent state with rapid eye movements, changes in body coloration and twitching of the arms, that is possibly analogous to REM sleep. Our findings thus suggest that at least two different sleep-like states may exist in Sepia officinalis.

Concepts: Species, Sleep, Vertebrate, Invertebrate, Rapid eye movement sleep, Rapid eye movement


Isolated reports have long suggested a similarity in content and thought processes across mind wandering (MW) during waking, and dream mentation during sleep. This overlap has encouraged speculation that both “daydreaming” and dreaming may engage similar brain mechanisms. To explore this possibility, we systematically examined published first-person experiential reports of MW and dreaming and found many similarities: in both states, content is largely audiovisual and emotional, follows loose narratives tinged with fantasy, is strongly related to current concerns, draws on long-term memory, and simulates social interactions. Both states are also characterized by a relative lack of meta-awareness. To relate first-person reports to neural evidence, we compared meta-analytic data from numerous functional neuroimaging (PET, fMRI) studies of the default mode network (DMN, with high chances of MW) and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep (with high chances of dreaming). Our findings show large overlaps in activation patterns of cortical regions: similar to MW/DMN activity, dreaming and REM sleep activate regions implicated in self-referential thought and memory, including medial prefrontal cortex (PFC), medial temporal lobe structures, and posterior cingulate. Conversely, in REM sleep numerous PFC executive regions are deactivated, even beyond levels seen during waking MW. We argue that dreaming can be understood as an “intensified” version of waking MW: though the two share many similarities, dreams tend to be longer, more visual and immersive, and to more strongly recruit numerous key hubs of the DMN. Further, whereas MW recruits fewer PFC regions than goal-directed thought, dreaming appears to be characterized by an even deeper quiescence of PFC regions involved in cognitive control and metacognition, with a corresponding lack of insight and meta-awareness. We suggest, then, that dreaming amplifies the same features that distinguish MW from goal-directed waking thought.

Concepts: Brain, Cerebral cortex, Temporal lobe, Cerebrum, Hippocampus, Frontal lobe, Rapid eye movement sleep, Dream


Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep loss is associated with increased consumption of weight-promoting foods. The prefrontal cortex (PFC) is thought to mediate reward anticipation. However, the precise role of the PFC in mediating reward responses to highly palatable foods (HPF) after REM sleep deprivation is unclear. We selectively reduced REM sleep in mice over a 25-48 hr period and chemogenetically inhibited the medial PFC (mPFC) by using an altered glutamate-gated and ivermectin-gated chloride channel that facilitated neuronal inhibition through hyperpolarizing infected neurons. HPF consumption was measured while the mPFC was inactivated and REM sleep loss was induced. We found that REM sleep loss increased HPF consumption compared to control animals. However, mPFC inactivation reversed the effect of REM sleep loss on sucrose consumption without affecting fat consumption. Our findings provide, for the first time, a causal link between REM sleep, mPFC function and HPF consumption.

Concepts: Brain, Sleep, Sleep deprivation, Frontal lobe, Prefrontal cortex, Rapid eye movement sleep


Detecting meaningful structure in neural activity and connectivity data is challenging in the presence of hidden nonlinearities, where traditional eigenvalue-based methods may be misleading. We introduce a novel approach to matrix analysis, called clique topology, that extracts features of the data invariant under nonlinear monotone transformations. These features can be used to detect both random and geometric structure, and depend only on the relative ordering of matrix entries. We then analyzed the activity of pyramidal neurons in rat hippocampus, recorded while the animal was exploring a 2D environment, and confirmed that our method is able to detect geometric organization using only the intrinsic pattern of neural correlations. Remarkably, we found similar results during nonspatial behaviors such as wheel running and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. This suggests that the geometric structure of correlations is shaped by the underlying hippocampal circuits and is not merely a consequence of position coding. We propose that clique topology is a powerful new tool for matrix analysis in biological settings, where the relationship of observed quantities to more meaningful variables is often nonlinear and unknown.

Concepts: Neuron, Brain, Cerebral cortex, Hippocampus, Geometry, Manifold, Pyramidal cell, Rapid eye movement sleep


Studies in cognitive psychology showed that personality (openness to experience, thin boundaries, absorption), creativity, nocturnal awakenings, and attitude toward dreams are significantly related to dream recall frequency (DRF). These results suggest the possibility of neurophysiological trait differences between subjects with high and low DRF. To test this hypothesis we compared sleep characteristics and alpha reactivity to sounds in subjects with high and low DRF using polysomnographic recordings and electroencephalography (EEG). We acquired EEG from 21 channels in 36 healthy subjects while they were presented with a passive auditory oddball paradigm (frequent standard tones, rare deviant tones and very rare first names) during wakefulness and sleep (intensity, 50 dB above the subject’s hearing level). Subjects were selected as High-recallers (HR, DRF = 4.42 ± 0.25 SEM, dream recalls per week) and Low-recallers (LR, DRF = 0.25 ± 0.02) using a questionnaire and an interview on sleep and dream habits. Despite the disturbing setup, the subjects' quality of sleep was generally preserved. First names induced a more sustained decrease in alpha activity in HR than in LR at Pz (1000-1200 ms) during wakefulness, but no group difference was found in REM sleep. The current dominant hypothesis proposes that alpha rhythms would be involved in the active inhibition of the brain regions not involved in the ongoing brain operation. According to this hypothesis, a more sustained alpha decrease in HR would reflect a longer release of inhibition, suggesting a deeper processing of complex sounds than in LR during wakefulness. A possibility to explain the absence of group difference during sleep is that increase in alpha power in HR may have resulted in awakenings. Our results support this hypothesis since HR experienced more intra sleep wakefulness than LR (30 ± 4 vs. 14 ± 4 min). As a whole our results support the hypothesis of neurophysiological trait differences in high and low-recallers.

Concepts: Psychology, Brain, Sleep, Neuroscience, Electroencephalography, Rapid eye movement sleep, Trait theory, Openness to experience