Rapid Eye Movement Sleep Can Improve Emotional Memory, Says Study


Getting good sleep is indeed beneficial for physical and mental health. Scientists have also been stressing it and saying that sleep has a big role in the proper functioning of the brain. Now, a study that claims emotional memory can improve with rapid eye movement (REM) sleep (the second stage of sleep) has been published. This study was carried out by the researchers of the University of Bern. This result backs other recent studies, according to which sleep calms the neuronal activity of the brain.

The second stage of sleep is called rapid eye movement sleep. This is the phase in which we dream more and remember most of it when we wake up. At the same time, the earlier phase of sleep is called NREM i.e. non rapid eye movement sleep. In simple language, it is called deep sleep. NREM is longer than REM.

The prefrontal cortex in the brain is where most of the emotional processes take place. REM is a sleep state in which the sleeper sees dreams high in emotional content. However, the paradox before this study was that the prefrontal cortex is inactive while sleeping.

So how were people seeing dreams with emotional content that made perfect sense? Professor Antoine Adamantidis from the Department of Biomedical Research at the University of Bern researched to answer the same.

During rapid eye movement, the message is received in the brain, but the neurons do not carry it forward. The research revealed that the input nodes of the neurons received and encoded signals which is why the REM sleepers could make sense of the emotions in the dream and understand the difference between safety and danger but the output node was asleep.

This output node that controls how we react to a particular danger when asleep leads to the absence of our overreaction to the situation. All in all, it gives REM sleepers a huge survival advantage as they can differentiate between safety and danger much better and make informed decisions.

The research was done on rats, and the understandability of a human’s psychological processes while sleeping will be analysed further through the results of this research.

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