Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, also known as dreaming sleep, is naturally regulated so that daily amounts are relatively consistent and losses are made up during the next period of sleep. This well-documented phenomenon is called REM sleep rebound.
Subimal Datta, PhD, a professor in the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) Graduate School of Medicine in Knoxville, has received a grant totaling $1.4 million from the National Institute of Mental Health, a subsidiary of the National Institutes of Health, to explore the cellular and molecular processes that regulate REM sleep and rebound. The award will be distributed over four years.
Studies have shown that the amount of REM sleep recovered following a period of REM sleep deprivation is directly proportional to the amount of REM sleep that has been lost. Additionally, during REM sleep deprivation there are progressively more frequent attempts at transitions into REM sleep, an indication of strong bodily need for REM sleep. These findings are consistent with the belief that stable regulatory processes control daily amounts of REM sleep.
Dr. Datta believes that the amount of REM sleep may be regulated by specific areas of the brain. His previous studies have shown that distinct cell groups in the brain stem initiate the multiple events of REM sleep. These cell groups are components of a widely distributed network rather than a single REM sleep “center.”
However, no study to date has investigated the cellular and molecular mechanisms within the brain stem; the REM-sleep-regulating areas that underlie the interdependent regulation of REM sleep; and how these mechanisms operate under varying physiological and/or pathological conditions. This newly funded research is designed to clarify these REM sleep regulatory mechanisms.
Homeostatic regulation of REM sleep is critical for the development, maturation, and cognitive functions of the brain, and deficits in this regulation are associated with a number of neurological and psychiatric disorders including depression, anxiety disorders, stroke, addiction, Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s and Parkinson’s diseases. REM deficits also occur after stroke. Dr. Datta’s research titled, “Cellular and Molecular Mechanisms of REM Sleep,” will help clarify the pathophysiological processes that underlie the cognitive dysfunctions associated with these disorders.
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