Two Genes Regulate How Much Humans Dream

first_imgStay on target As a child, I had a recurring nightmare that my dad was being chased by a hungry shark, and all I could do was stand on the end of an empty pier and scream.It turns out I have two “dream genes” to thank for that (and countless other sleep-induced horrors).Researchers at the RIKEN Center for Biosystems Dynamics Research and the University of Tokyo identified a pair of essential genes—Chrm 1 and Chrm 3—that regulate rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.Also known as paradoxical sleep and desynchronized sleep, the unique REM phase is marked by an active brain and inert body, as well as the tendency for vivid dreams.Nathaniel Kleitman and Eugene Aserinsky first defined rapid eye movement and linked it to unconscious fantasies in 1953.In the years since various studies have suggested that neurotransmitter acetylcholine and its receptor are important for the regulation of REM sleep; it was unclear, though, which receptor(s) was directly involved.In an effort to find out, researchers in Japan modified and screened mouse genes to identify those components that, when shut off, cause sleep abnormalities.After knocking out a number of genes encoding different acetylcholine receptors, they discovered the loss of two, in particular, had the greatest effect: Chrm 1 reduced and fragmented REM sleep, while Chrm 3 shortened non-REM sleep.“The surprising finding that mice are viable despite the almost complete loss of REM sleep will allow us to rigorously verify whether REM sleep plays a crucial role in fundamental biological functions such as learning and memory,” study co-author Yasutaka Niwa, a research scientist at RIKEN, said in a statement.When both genes were unplugged, the test mice achieved next to no REM sleep but survived nonetheless.“The discovery that Chrm 1 and Chrm 3 play a key role in REM sleep opens the way to studying its underlying cellular and molecular mechanisms,” according to team leader Hiroki Ueda, a professor at the University of Tokyo, “and will eventually allow us to define the state of REM sleep, which has been paradoxical and mysterious since its original report.”The full study was published this week in the journal Cell Reports.Good news, nappers: Sleeping twice a day is better, healthier, and more natural. Unless you are kept awake by a snoring partner. But if you are going to nap get comfy in a Snorlax Kigurumi. Stay well rested with all things slumber here.Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey. Google Fit Now Tracks Sleep, Adds Dark ModeStudy: Nighttime Smartphone Gazing Probably Won’t Disturb Internal Clock last_img

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