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Neuroimage. 2001 Sep;14(3):701-8.

Generation of rapid eye movements during paradoxical sleep in humans.

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  • 1Cyclotron Research Center, University of Li├Ęge, Belgium.


Although rapid eye movements (REMs) are a prominent feature of paradoxical sleep (PS), their origin and functional significance remain poorly understood in humans. In animals, including nonhuman primates, REMs during PS are closely related to the occurrence of the so-called PGO waves, i.e., prominent phasic activities recorded throughout the brain but predominantly and most easily in the pons (P), the lateral geniculate bodies (G), and the occipital cortex (O). Therefore, and because the evolution of species is parsimonious, a plausible hypothesis would be that during PS in humans, REMs are generated by mechanisms similar to PGO waves. Using positron emission tomography and iterative cerebral blood flow measurements by H(2)(15)O infusions, we predicted that the brain regions where the PGO waves are the most easily recorded in animals would be differentially more active in PS than in wakefulness, in relation with the density of the REM production [i.e., we looked for the condition (PS versus wakefulness) by performance (REM density) interaction]. Accordingly, we found a significant interaction effect in the right geniculate body and in the primary occipital cortex. The result supports the hypothesis of the existence of processes similar to PGO waves in humans, responsible for REM generation. The interest in the presence of PGO waves in humans is outstanding because the cellular processes involved in, or triggered by, PGO waves might favor brain plasticity during PS.

Copyright 2001 Academic Press.

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