It would seem that what is new: we know that sleep has a slow phase and a fast phase, fast is called REM sleep, where REM is rapid eye movement, that is, rapid eye movements. It is believed that during REM sleep, especially vivid, especially clear dreams are dreamed, and the eyes follow what we are dreaming of and therefore move quickly.
However, in fact, until now it was only an assumption, albeit a very convincing one. How to check that the sleeping eyes really move after the objects and events that we dream about? They did this: they recorded the eye movements of a sleeping person, then in the middle of a dream they woke him up and asked what he dreamed about. For example, if he dreamed of a car moving from left to right, then his eyes should have moved from left to right. But here, firstly, a person must see very vivid dreams and remember them very well, memorize them in great detail. Secondly, it is very difficult to correlate a specific eye movement with a specific moment of sleep – the events in a dream, as we know, can change very, very quickly. Therefore, the results of such studies remained mostly contradictory: there was still the option that eye movements were not caused by dreams, but simply by random contractions of the eye muscles.
Employees at the University of California at San Francisco decided to do otherwise: they decided to match the electrical activity of the brain with eye movements. The experiments were carried out on mice, in which, like all mammals, sleep is divided into slow and fast phases, and in which the eyes move in the fast phase in the same way as in humans.
There are special “compass” neurons in the brain that monitor the direction of the head (we wrote that these neurons were recently found in the thalamus, or thalamus). Eye movements and head movements are closely related to each other. Although animals can change the direction of their gaze without turning their heads, the head usually turns with their eyes – especially if the events around them require special attention. At the same time, it is known that “compass” neurons that determine the direction of the head are active not only during wakefulness, but also during sleep. They work as if the head were looking this way and that, although in reality the head does not move at all.
The idea of the researchers was to test whether the eyes of a sleeping mouse during REM sleep would look in the same direction as the head direction neurons “look”. First, they compared eye movements and the work of these neurons in awake mice, and then sleeping ones. In an article in Science it is said that in sleep, eye movements and the activity of “compass” neurons are connected in the same way as in the waking state. That is, now it is possible to assert with a greater degree of certainty that the eyes during REM sleep follow dreams. As for mice, we cannot be sure that they actually dream about something, but it is likely that similar experiments can be repeated on humans.
Source: Автономная некоммерческая организация "Редакция журнала «Наука и жизнь»" by www.nkj.ru.
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