The Very, Very Strange Properties of REM Sleep
Posted: 18 August 2011 02:07 PM   [ Ignore ]
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The Very, Very Strange Properties of REM Sleep

Most cognitive products of the Mind are produced by relatively straightforward activation/de-activation patterns in widely distributed neural networks of the brain. When for example, a highly complex cognitive product like a sentence or a story is produced by your mind, it generally is associated with those particular brain activation/de-activation patterns as well as mild emotional changes in your psyche and mild arousal levels in your body. Not so with dreams.

Dreams are highly complex cognitive products that are produced, as far as we can tell, by Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. While REM sleep is also composed of a series of particular brain activation/de-activation patterns, bodily and emotional arousal patterns are anything but mild.

Relative to the waking state, sympathetic nervous system activity rises dramatically during phasic portions of REM. As the average duration of REM episodes increase over the course of the night, so do the durations of sympathetic discharges giving rise to periodic REM-related sympathetic discharges or “storms.”

These autonomic nervous system (ANS) storms, in turn, may be linked to a host of negative cardiopulmonary changes that occur during REM. During all REM periods, an acceleration of heart rate occurs at least 10 beats before EEG signs of phasic arousal, and then fluctuates dramatically during phasic REM. Systemic arterial blood pressure (BP), pulmonary BP, and intracranial arterial BP all exhibit increased variability relative to NREM and waking levels. Because of the hemodynamic, ANS, and sympathetic alterations of REM, plaque rupture and coronary arterial spasm become more likely. Persons with cardiopulmonary disease are indeed more likely to die during this REM period than at any other time of the 24-hour day.

In addition, during REM oxygen desaturation levels are maximal and Cheyne-Stokes-like breathing patterns predominate. As a result of the fall in alveolar ventilation, there are changes in blood gas levels, with rises in CO2 and decreases in oxygen saturation. The natural response to lowered O2 levels is to increase inspiratory breathing, but this response (the hypoxic ventilatory response) is decreased by over 50% of normal capacity during REM. The REM-related hypoxemia and abnormal breathing patterns may cause life-threatening complications in vulnerable persons, including infants with immature lung capacity thus increasing the chance for sudden infant death syndrome.

REM also appears to involve a loss of thermo-regulatory reflexes so that it is harder for the individual to stop heat loss during REM sleep. Although brain temperature rises during REM, thermoregulatory responses such as sweating and panting do not occur in REM.

Yet another bizarre feature of REM is that phasic eye movements and muscle twitches occur upon a background of paralysis in the antigravity musculature, including the jaw, neck, and limbs. This paralysis however does not extend to the sexual organs! In males every REM period is associated with prolonged penile erections. These REM-related erections apparently even occur in infants. They persist throughout the lifespan but are not reliably associated with erotic desire. Women sometimes undergo uterine contractions and pelvic thrusting during REM, but too few studies have been done on this topic to draw any firm conclusions.

In short whenever we go into REM sleep we experience intense ANS storms, cardiovascular instabilities, respiratory impairment, thermoregulatory lapses, muscle twitching, muscle paralysis and penile erections. Now recall that the cognitive products associated with this strange set of physiologic aberrations are what we call dreams. Is it any wonder that theorists of REM sleep have despaired of ever identifying the evolutionary or physiologic functions of REM sleep?

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/dream-catcher/201108/the-very-very-strange-properties-rem-sleep

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One note I would make is that the Gestalt Bubble reality neuro-simulator hardware we call a brain appears to run on photons, so the main function of REM itself might just be bringing light in to jump-start the holographic game engine.

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Posted: 19 August 2011 12:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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The title of the following article is “Everyday Clairvoyance: How your brain makes near-future predictions” so it might not seem relevant at first. However, this is not about ESP/telepathy, but the clear value that the brain places on simulation. Evolutionary, reproductive-selection value...and more important, neuroscience is fumbling towards a better sense of the mechanics involved. I think this article contains some valuable leads about the mysteries of REM sleep. Dig it:

Source: http://news.wustl.edu/news/Pages/22555.aspx

Every day we make thousands of tiny predictions — when the bus will arrive, who is knocking on the door, whether the dropped glass will break. Now, in one of the first studies of its kind, researchers at Washington University in St. Louis are beginning to unravel the process by which the brain makes these everyday prognostications.

While this might sound like a boon to day traders, coaches and gypsy fortune tellers, people with early stages of neurological diseases such as schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases could someday benefit from this research. In these maladies, sufferers have difficulty segmenting events in their environment from the normal stream of consciousness that constantly surrounds them.

The researchers focused on the mid-brain dopamine system (MDS), an evolutionarily ancient system that provides signals to the rest of the brain when unexpected events occur. Using functional MRI (fMRI), they found that this system encodes prediction error when viewers are forced to choose what will happen next in a video of an everyday event.

Predicting the near future is vital in guiding behavior and is a key component of theories of perception, language processing and learning, says Jeffrey M. Zacks, PhD, WUSTL associate professor of psychology in Arts & Sciences and lead author of a paper on the study in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience.

“It’s valuable to be able to run away when the lion lunges at you, but it’s super-valuable to be able to hop out of the way before the lion jumps,” Zacks says. “It’s a big adaptive advantage to look just a little bit over the horizon.”

Zacks and his colleagues are building a theory of how predictive perception works. At the core of the theory is the belief that a good part of predicting the future is the maintenance of a mental model of what is happening now. Now and then, this model needs updating, especially when the environment changes unpredictably.

“When we watch everyday activity unfold around us, we make predictions about what will happen a few seconds out,” Zacks says. “Most of the time, our predictions are right.

“Successfull predictions are associated with the subjective experience of a smooth stream of consciousness. But a few times a minute, our predictions come out wrong and then we perceive a break in the stream of consciousness, accompanied by an uptick in activity of primitive parts of the brain involved with the MDS that regulate attention and adaptation to unpredicted changes.”

Zacks tested healthy young volunteers who were shown movies of everyday events such as washing a car, building a LEGO model or washing clothes. The movie would be watched for a while, and then it was stopped.

Participants then were asked to predict what would happen five seconds later when the movie was re-started by selecting a picture that showed what would happen, and avoiding similar pictures that did not correspond to what would happen.

Half of the time, the movie was stopped just before an event boundary, when a new event was just about to start. The other half of the time, the movie was stopped in the middle of an event. The researchers found that participants were more than 90 percent correct in predicting activity within the event, but less than 80 percent correct in predicting across the event boundary. They were also less confident in their predictions.

“This is the point where they are trying hardest to predict the future,” Zacks says. “It’s harder across the event boundary, and they know that they are having trouble. When the film is stopped, the participants are heading into the time when prediction error is starting to surge. That is, they are noting that a possible error is starting to happen. And that shakes their confidence. They’re thinking, ‘Do I really know what’s going to happen next?’ ”

Zacks and his group were keenly interested in what the participants’ brains were doing as they tried to predict into a new event.

In the functional MRI experiment, Zacks and his colleagues saw significant activity in several midbrain regions, among them the substantia nigra — “ground zero for the dopamine signaling system” — and in a set of nuclei called the striatum.

The substantia nigra, Zacks says, is the part of the brain hit hardest by Parkinson’s disease, and is important for controlling movement and making adaptive decisions.

Brain activity in this experiment was revealed by fMRI at two critical points: when subjects tried to make their choice, and immediately after feedback on the correctness or incorrectness of their answers.

Mid-brain responses “really light up at hard times, like crossing the event boundary and when the subjects were told that they had made the wrong choice,” Zacks says.

Zacks says the experiments provide a “crisp test” of his laboratory’s prediction theory. They also offer hope of targeting these prediction-based updating mechanisms to better diagnose early stage neurological diseases and provide tools to help patients.

That closing sentence has become, apparently, obligatory in 2011. I haven’t seen a single research article that did not end on a token statement of the research having applications for patients down the road. It’s a bummer that’s such an integral part of the sales pitch because it indicates Neil Degrasse Tyson was onto something with his speech about how “we’ve stopped dreaming” and popular distrust of science is transitioning into something more adversarial. Up next: torches, pitchforks, and WSJ editorials from Peggy Noonan!

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Posted: 19 August 2011 06:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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source: http://www.brainsturbator.com/articles/helpful_hints_for_budding_dream_scientists/

“Dreaming states provide interesting PET scans in which the cortex is perceptually activated in a manner consistent with the similar EEG to the waking state, and the intensity of the dream experiences. One feature different in dreams is the lower activity of the inferior frontal cortex, which may reflect the uncontrolled nature of dreams....REM sleep PET scans parallel the awake brain in activation of the visual cortex and frontal lobes.”
----Chris King, from his paper Fractal and Chaotic Dynamics in Nervous Systems
http://www.math.auckland.ac.nz/~king/Preprints/pdf/BrChaos.pdf

“The DNA in a particular cell is not totally active. It has been determined that as little as 1% of DNA in the cell nucleus is active.  The nervous system, interestingly enough, has the highest percentage of operating DNA of any cell system in the body, of up to at least 10%”
----Iona Miller, Helix to Hologram
http://www.djmsp.com/feedingtrough/reading/Helix to Hologram.pdf

“Jouvet later implanted electrodes into cats’ brains and managed to trigger REM phases by electrically stimulating the pons. He also found, to his surprise, that higher-order brain regions had no function in REM whatsoever. Even animals in which all nerve connections from the pons to the cerebral cortex had been severed fell into REM sleep. The REM center appeared to reside in the pons, which lies in the brain stem, an old, primitive brain region that bears responsibility for basic functions such as breathing and heartbeat.
But how did the pons control REM and non-REM states? Did dreams have nothing to do with the brain’s emotional centers? If not, where did dreams’ fantastic visions and delightful story lines, their chase scenes and terrors, their sexual exploits and tensions, come from? In the 1970s, building on Jouvet’s results and their own extensive work in sleep labs, J. Allan Hobson and Robert W. McCarley of Harvard Medical School presented two complementary theories: the reciprocal-interaction and the activation-synthesis models. According to the former, REM sleep and the dreams related to it are turned on and off by a tug-of-war between special networks of neurons in the pons.
The neurophysiologists determined that so-called REM-on neurons used the neurotransmitter (a messenger chemical) acetylcholine to send impulses to various brain regions, triggering arousal. Acetylcholine caused neurons to fire not only in the pons but also in parts of the cortex and in the limbic system, the emotional center of the brain. According to the researchers’ activation-synthesis model, dream images arise randomly from neurons that fire in these various regions. The sleeping brain tries to do with these signals exactly what it does in its waking state with sensory inputs: make sense of them.”
----Gerhard Klosch and Ulrich Kraft, from a recent Scientific American article.
source: http://www.sciammind.com/print_version.cfm?articleID=000170AA-599E-128A-994D83414B7F0000

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RG: Somewhere in the book Cheney says that when Tesla would write out a blueprint or a diagram, it was as if he were tracing an image that was already there.
PL: Oh yeah. He’d do it through lucid dreaming. He would, in a sense, dream up the engine, forget about it, come back, and then discover where it was wearing. You know, where the parts were wearing out. Now, that’s inner visualization and a half! And that was the secret of why he did so many inventions.
RG: Wait a minute. You’re saying that he would dream of the engine, one he hadn’t built yet, and then he’d...?
PL: Set it in motion, come back, see where the machine had worn out over time. All in his head. Yeah.”
----Paul Laffoley, from his interview with Paranoia Magazine.
http://www.paranoiamagazine.com/mephiticmodels.html

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Posted: 19 August 2011 06:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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