Neurons responsible for rapid eye movement/REM during sleep discovered

on 05 January 2020
the brain

The dynamic role of sleep and REM sleep, in particular, is slowly but excitingly, being unravelled. The role of sleep states be it during our nighttime recovery mode and healing in hypnosis is awakening the power of the brain and how we can learn to manage it more successfully . . . 

Discoveries abound as technology advances!

This is an exciting piece of research because it takes us closer to understanding the nature of REM sleep and the role it plays in sleep-induced learning and memory formation. It is also of interest to me because of my growing understanding and belief of the link between sleep, its many processes, and hypnotherapy.

The Papilio nucleus is a part of the dorsal paragigantocellular nucleus, which is itself a part of the gigantocellular nucleus, a subregion of the medullary reticular formation of the brain stem. Of particular interest to life challenges, this region has connections to many other brain parts, that are involved in survival/fight or flight! For example, the periaqueductal grey, the paraventricular hypothalamic nucleuscentral nucleus of the amygdalalateral hypothalamic area, and parvocellular reticular nucleus

Periaqueductal grey involves much of the autonomic function, behavioural motivation as well as responses to threats. It is also involved in the control of pain and cells and cells that produce endorphins, which suppress pain.

The paraventricular hypothalamic nucleus is a part of the hypothalamus and is involved in the stress response but also in the release of oxytocin, the brain's love drug! A nearby structure, the supraoptic nucleus, produces vasopressin. Both oxytocin and vasopressin play a role in bonding behaviours and one wonders if these are implicated during different types of dreaming, e.g. dreams involving love, family and sex and the more nightmarish stress type of dreaming?

The central nucleus of the amygdala is a major output area of the amygdala. Although the amygdala is often referred to as if it was one thing, it is actually made up of several regions, each having different functions and some functional differences between each hemisphere and gender. The other areas of the amygdala are primarily for the input of sensory information (lateral) and processing of that information (basolateral complex).

The lateral hypothalamic area (the outer edge of the hypothalamus) is a region involved in the regulation of many body functions, e.g. temperature, digestion, arousal, blood pressure etc. many of these functions are in some way related to the overall functions of our defence system.

The parvocellular reticular nucleus is an integral part of the pontine (pons) reticular formation. It involves exhalation and functions of some nerves of the brain, e.g. facial and cranial

So, relating this to hypnosis, REM and NonREM sleep plays a significant role in the way memories are formed, stored and subsequently recalled. The specific role of dreaming, while not totally clear, play a significant role in how our life unfolds, this is simply because behaviour is the outward manifestation of the way memories are expressed (the outcome of extra and intracellular processes). Hypnosis, I contend, occurs while the brain is in these cyclic stages of sleep, which involve theta and delta brainwaves. The role of PGO (Ponto-geniculo-occipital) waves, which precede REM sleep, and the subsequent lowering of norepinephrine, in the locus coeruleus, once we enter REM sleep, I believe, are in some way instrumental in the altering of memory expression. So, what we call hypnosis, alludes to the brain's method of allowing an externally (auditorily) induced process (the hypnotist's voice), leading to changes in memory expression, which then leads to changes in thought and/or behaviour.

While effective, hypnosis is not always a linear process. This is often because memories and their traces can have connections throughout many different neuronal networks and the interconnected situations and circumstances we experience in our lives and because of that, multiple sessions are usually required to effect a solution. The number of sessions varies but I have found 5 to be a good number. It is also worth noting, that hypnosis-therapy is not just about solving problems or issues, it can also be part of creating better functionality, i.e. making a good life; better! 

The hippocampus, a brain region, in which the primary function is the formation, storage and retrieval of memories, has some interesting parts to play in sleep too. When learning occurs during the normal state of wakefulness, the activity recorded in the hippocampus, during fMRI tests, is then seen to be replayed in the same parts of the hippocampus during sleep. So, the psychotherapeutic intervention (the content of a hypnotherapy session) is then fed back into the brain, via the auditory cortex, where it is consolidated or reconsolidated to form a new or altered memory, relative to the desired outcome of the client!

It is because of this that hypnotherapy stands out as one of the most effective strategic life management methods there is. Especially because of its ability to align both sides of the dilemma of life, logical and illogical and because it promotes clear thinking and good states of mental wellness. The behaviours that make life challenging are often a result of too much stress, too little sleep and too little by way of clarity! So, to get or take back control of your mind and your life, it makes perfect sense to use a methodology, hypnosis, that addresses the subconscious's role in perpetuating negative, vague and ambiguous states of mind. Hypnosis helps us to create calm relaxing states that make life work better!

If you would like to address any concerns you have in this direction, or, if you just want to make your life feel better, then why not make an appointment for a Free Consultation? Hypnosis gives you the ability to have a good life! 

My objective is to help people understand how and why we become illogically trapped into emotional experiences that may actually be happening but for reasons, we may never have imagined! If you want to know more about Hypnotherapy, why not make an appointment for a Free Consultation?

For more information on the Free Consultation - Go Here or to book your Free Consultation today, you can do so here

The Research:

REM -- Rapid Eye Movement -- is not only the name of a successful American rock band, but also and not least a characteristic eye movement in paradoxical sleep, so in the stage with high dream activity. This sleep phase has a peculiarity: Although the muscle tone of the sleeping person is completely relaxed, the eyes suddenly move back and forth. The name "paradoxical sleep" is well deserved. Characteristic of these are signs of deep sleep (muscle atony) in connection with a brain activity, which is very similar to those in the waking state, and eye movements. This sleep phase was discovered in the 1950s by French and American researchers and consequently called rapid eye movement sleep (REM sleep), i.e. sleep with rapid eye movements. Why can this strange phenomenon be useful? For 70 years, scientists have been dreaming of getting to the bottom of the mystery. Thanks to the productive cooperation between the universities of Bern and Fribourg, this dream could now come true.

Butterfly wings arranged neurons

For several years, the team led by Franck Girard and Marco Celio at the University of Freiburg has studied neurons under the microscope, which occur in the brain stem and form a structure that is reminiscent of butterfly wings, which is why she was baptized Nucleus Papilio. "These neurons are associated with multiple nerve centres, especially those responsible for eye movement, and those involved in sleep control," explains Franck Girard. "Therefore, we asked ourselves the following question: may the nucleus Papilio neurons play a role in the control of eye movements during sleep?"

Stronger together

To test this hypothesis, the Freiburg researchers turned to the research group headed by Dr C. Gutiérrez Herrera and Prof. A. Adamantidis at the Department of Neurology at the Inselspital, University Hospital Bern, and Department for BioMedical Research of the University of Bern, who are investigating sleep in mice. "To our surprise, we found that these neurons are particularly active in the phase of paradoxical sleep," reports Dr Carolina Gutierrez. The researchers from Bern gathered the loop around the nucleus Papilio neurons even more closely and were able to demonstrate with the help of optogenetic methods (combined optical and genetic techniques) that their artificial activation causes rapid eye movement, especially during this sleep phase. Conversely, the inhibition or elimination of these same neurons blocks the movement of the eyes.

After the "how" the "why"!

Now that it is clear that the nucleus Papilio neurons play an important role in eye movement during REM sleep, it is important to find out what function this phenomenon has. Is it due to the visual experience of dreams? Does it matter in preserving memories? "Now that we are able to specifically activate the nucleus Papilio 'on-demand in mice by optogenetic methods, we may be able to find answers to these questions," says Antoine Adamantidis. The next step, however, will be to confirm the activation of nucleus Papilio neurons during REM sleep in humans. The researchers have not yet found the key to their dreams, but they've come a long way.

A better understanding of the neural circuits involved in paradoxical sleep is, therefore, a prerequisite for understanding for instance how these neurons are prone to degenerative changes in diseases such as Parkinson's.

Story Source:

Materials provided by the University of BernNote: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. C. Gutierrez Herrera, F. Girard, A. Bilella, T. C. Gent, D. M. Roccaro-Waldmeyer, A. Adamantidis, M. R. Celio. Neurons in the Nucleus Papilio contribute to the control of eye movements during REM sleepNature Communications, 2019; 10 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-019-13217-y

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The University of Bern. "Neurons responsible for rapid eye movements/REM during sleep." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 December 2019. <>