Sleep Med Psychophysiol.  1995 Dec;2(2):133-137.

Brain Mechanisms Generating REM Sleep

  • 1Department of Psychiatry, College of Medicine, Gyeongsang National University, Chinju, Korea.


The author reviews current knowledge about what REM sleep is and where and how it is generated. REM sleep is the state in which our most vivid dreams occur. REM sleep is identified by the simultaneous presence of a desynchronized cortical EEG, an absence of activity in the antigravity muscles(atonia), and periodic bursts of rapid eye movements. Another characteristic phenomena of REM sleep are the highly synchronized hippocampal EEG of theta frequency and the ponto-geniculo-occipital(PGO) spike. All these phenomena can be explained in terms of changes in neuronal activity. Transection studies have determined that the pons is sufficient for generating REM sleep. Lesion studies have identified a small region in the lateral pontine tegmentum corresponding to lateral portions of the nucleus reticularis pontis oralis (RPO) and the region immediately ventral to the locus coeruleus, which is required for REM sleep. Unit recording studies have found a population of cells within this region that is selectively active in REM sleep. Cholinergic neurons of the giant cell field of pontine tegmentum(ETG), which is 'REM a sleep-on cells', has shown to be critically involved in the generation of REM sleep. Noradrenergic neurons of the locus coeruleus and serotonergic neurons of the dorsal raphe, which are called 'REM sleep off cells', appear to act in a reciprocal manner to the cholinergic neurons. It is proposed that the periodic cessations of discharge of 'REM sleep-off cells' during REM sleep might be significant for the prevention of the desensitization of receptors of these neurons.


REM Sleep; Hippocampal theta; PGO spike; Acetylcholine; NE; Serotonin
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