Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

New Research Suggest REM Is About Eyes Not Dreams

Date:
February 17, 1998
Source:
Columbia University College Of Physicians And Surgeons
Summary:
A Columbia University researcher is "stirring" up conventional views on the function of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. According to David Maurice, Ph.D., professor of ocular physiology in the Department of Ophthalmology at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, REM sleep may have more to do with vision than with dreams.

New York, NY Feb. 11, 1998-- A Columbia University researcher is "stirring" up conventional views on the function of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. According to David Maurice, Ph.D., professor of ocular physiology in the Department of Ophthalmology at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, REM sleep may have more to do with vision than with dreams.

The research, reported in the Feb. 13 issue of Experimental Eye Research, suggests that the aqueous humor, the clear watery liquid in the anterior chamber just behind the cornea, needs to circulate to bring oxygen to the cornea from blood vessels in the iris. When the eyelids are closed during sleep the circulation slows dramatically, and the motion of rapid eye movement simply serves to "stir" the anterior chamber and prevent corneal suffocation.

In the 1950s, research found that sleepers could often recall a dream if they were awakened when their eyes appeared to be darting around beneath their eyelids. From these findings evolved the popular theory that during this REM sleep the brain is processing information gathered while awake, "rather like a store closing for business during its taking inventory," says Dr. Maurice. "Because of its implications in the functions of the central nervous system, REM has been considered to be the domain of disciplines ranging from psychology to neuropharmacology and it has not received attention from ocular physiologists."

Dr. Maurice proposes a completely different purpose for REM sleep. He developed his theory when he learned of a young man whose eyes had been immobilized by an accident and whose corneas had become laced with blood vessels, presumably to supply the corneas with oxygen. Dr. Maurice knew that when the eyes are closed, oxygen can reach the cornea from the iris only by diffusion across the stagnant aqueous in the anterior chamber. Using mathematical calculations, he established that under these circumstances, the oxygen supplied will be insufficient and corneal suffocation possibly leading to cell death will result.

To demonstrate that aqueous circulation virtually stops when the eyelids are closed, Maurice stained the aqueous with a fluorescent dye and charted its currents. In a closed eye, freshly secreted unstained aqueous from behind the iris accumulated in front of the pupil as a dark pool. But when the eye opened, the pool quickly rose within the anterior chamber and began to circulate. It has long been established that in an eye opened to cooler room air, convection currents based on heat differentials cause the aqueous to circulate. In other experiments, moving the eyes voluntarily immediately stirred up the fluorescence in the chamber so that it became uniform.

Dr. Maurice's "stagnant aqueous humor hypothesis" could explain why periods of REM sleep initially last about 20 minutes but become progressively longer as the night wears on. And the fact that the womb is at uniform temperature could explain why REM is so active in the fetus. If taking sensory inventory is the purpose of REM sleep, why does an unborn child spend many hours a day in REM? he asks. Likewise, why do animals born with sealed eyelids need REM? "It is quite possible," states Dr. Maurice, "that REM sleep evolved with the primary purpose of protecting the cornea." And what of our dreams? Dr. Maurice does not deny that REM sleep is associated with such phenomena as dreaming, a rise in brain temperature, penile erections, and EEG changes. But he cannot see any physiological significance in these phenomena and suggests that they may result from the partial arousal necessary for REM to occur. "In any case," he writes, "my interests are in the plumbing, and I am happy ! to leave dreams to others."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Columbia University College Of Physicians And Surgeons. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Columbia University College Of Physicians And Surgeons. "New Research Suggest REM Is About Eyes Not Dreams." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 February 1998. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/02/980217002808.htm>.
Columbia University College Of Physicians And Surgeons. (1998, February 17). New Research Suggest REM Is About Eyes Not Dreams. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 2, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/02/980217002808.htm
Columbia University College Of Physicians And Surgeons. "New Research Suggest REM Is About Eyes Not Dreams." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/02/980217002808.htm (accessed September 2, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Get on Your Bike! London Cycling Popularity Soars Despite Danger

Get on Your Bike! London Cycling Popularity Soars Despite Danger

AFP (Sep. 1, 2014) Wedged between buses, lorries and cars, cycling in London isn't for the faint hearted. Nevertheless the number of people choosing to bike in the British capital has doubled over the past 15 years. Duration: 02:27 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Can You Train Your Brain To Eat Healthy?

Can You Train Your Brain To Eat Healthy?

Newsy (Sep. 1, 2014) New research says if you condition yourself to eat healthy foods, eventually you'll crave them instead of junk food. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
We've Got Mites Living In Our Faces And So Do You

We've Got Mites Living In Our Faces And So Do You

Newsy (Aug. 30, 2014) A new study suggests 100 percent of adult humans (those over 18 years of age) have Demodex mites living in their faces. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Liberia Continues Fight Against Ebola

Liberia Continues Fight Against Ebola

AFP (Aug. 30, 2014) Authorities in Liberia try to stem the spread of the Ebola epidemic by raising awareness and setting up sanitation units for people to wash their hands. Duration: 00:41 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins