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Sleep Med. 2013 Aug;14(8):707-13. doi: 10.1016/j.sleep.2013.03.017. Epub 2013 Jun 13.

Perspectives on the rapid eye movement sleep switch in rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder.

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Department of Neurology and Division of Sleep Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA.


Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep in mammals is associated with wakelike cortical and hippocampal activation and concurrent postural muscle atonia. Research during the past 5 decades has revealed the details of the neural circuitry regulating REM sleep and muscle atonia during this state. REM-active glutamatergic neurons in the sublaterodorsal nucleus (SLD) of the dorsal pons are critical for generation for REM sleep atonia. Descending projections from SLD glutamatergic neurons activate inhibitory premotor neurons in the ventromedial medulla (VMM) and in the spinal cord to antagonize the glutamatergic supraspinal inputs on the motor neurons during REM sleep. REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD) consists of simple behaviors (i.e., twitching, jerking) and complex behaviors (i.e., defensive behavior, talking). Animal research has lead to the hypothesis that complex behaviors in RBD are due to SLD pathology, while simple behaviors of RBD may be due to less severe SLD pathology or dysfunction of the VMM, ventral pons, or spinal cord.


Atonia; Brainstem; Neural circuitry; Phasic regulation; Tonic regulation

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