REM sleep essential for development of brain in children, reveal study

A new study has revealed that during young ages when brain develops several skills including motor skills, speech, vision, social skills and several other cognitive functions, at the same time sleep also plays a vital role in development of brain. According to the study authors, Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep silently converts waking experiences into lasting memories and abilities in young brains.

REM is unique phase in which random movement of eyes and low muscle tone throughout the body helps a person to dream vividly which further triggers development of brain by helping it in adjusting the neural connections in accordance with the inputs received from the environment, researchers say.

Lead researcher Marcos Frank, Professor of medical sciences at Washington State University Spokane said that his team had previously studied effect of REM sleep in infant animals and found that these infants spend most of their time in REM sleep but researchers didn’t know how actually the sleeping state affected the brain. However, they knew that infants did not develop normal vision who experienced a Rem sleep deficit.

He further added that now they know that REM sleep acts like the chemical developer in old-fashioned photography to make traces of experience more permanent and focused in the brain. Without REM sleep brain forgets what it saw as the experience slowly fades and ultimately gets vanished; this happens as lack of REM sleep did not activates ERK enzyme which turns neuronal genes into proteins which further solidifies brain changes.

“Visual cortex is very sensitive to information it is receiving and there are critical periods for its development,”  Frank said. “If vision is blocked at these stages, then problems result.”

The study gives new insight into better understanding the sleep in children and how it affects other parts of the brain apart from the visual cortex and its effect in coming future.

The appeared in the journal Science Advances.

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