Today we have some remarkable breaking news in regards to dream research.
In a study led by Hiroki Ueda, researchers at the RIKEN Center for Biosystems Dynamics Research and the University of Tokyo have identified a pair of essential genes known as Chrm 1 and Chrm 3. These newly identified genes have been discovered to regulate the stage of sleep known as rapid eye movement or REM, the stage of sleep associated with dreaming.
Acetylcholine the Neurotransmitter of Dreams
It has been known for some time that the neurotransmitter acetylcholine and its receptors were important for the regulation of REM sleep, however, it has been unclear which receptors were directly involved.
In the brain, there are 16 types of cellular receptors that acetylcholine can bind to, but it was unknown which were essential to REM sleep and which were redundant.
Using the gene editing technology CRISPR, Japanese researchers modified and screened mouse genes, one by one, individually knocking out the genes for these acetylcholine receptors - preventing them from being expressed.
The study soon showed that a certain family of acetylcholine receptors, the nicotinic type, seemed to have little to do with sleep, and the mice deprived of these appeared to sleep much like the mice in which they remained.
However, another family, the muscarinic acetylcholine receptors, appeared much more interesting with the loss of the two receptors known as Chrm1 and Chrm3, shortening sleep by close to three hours a day.
The loss of either of these receptors fragmented and reduced REM sleep and also impacted and shortened non-REM sleep. Those mice without either receptor essentially didn't experience any REM sleep whatsoever.
Surprisingly, the REM-Free mice survived without dreaming sleep, which is contrary to the common belief that it is necessary for survival. However, this may be an unintentional side effect of the animals living in the relatively safe and "provided-for" artificial environment of a lab.
The discovery of these genes is important, as it marks a new and deeper understanding of the mechanisms of dreaming and sleep.
Lucid dreamers may have already noticed that the neurotransmitter acetylcholine and its receptors are the very same system targeted by the active ingredients in lucid dreaming pills, namely galantamine and huperzine-a.
In other words, this discovery could signal the start of a whole new era and scientific understanding of the dreaming mind. We are a significant step closer to grasping the mechanisms behind lucid dreaming. In the words of Ueda, the study leader:
"This investigation may help molecularly define REM sleep and may reveal the physiological roles of REM sleep in its closely related higher cognitive functions, such as learning and memory"
It's a fascinating and potentially groundbreaking discovery.
The original research can be found here: https://www.cell.com/cell-reports/fulltext/S2211-1247(18)31200-2#%20
Watch our video report here:
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