Phasic motor activity reduction occurring with horizontal rapid eye movements during active sleep in human

Exp Brain Res. 1995;107(1):137-44. doi: 10.1007/BF00228025.


We describe the phasic reduction of motor activity occurring with horizontal rapid eye movements (REMs) during active sleep in 15 children (12 healthy children and 3 patients with severe brain damage). A REM-related decrease in intercostal muscle activity was demonstrated by averaging integrated surface electromyograms. In the healthy subjects, this reduction had a mean latency from the REM onset of 37.1 ms and a duration of 225.9 ms. This phenomenon was also observed in the 3 patients who had lost cerebral function. We hypothesized a brainstem origin for the effect. A REM-related mentalis muscle activity loss, detected by averaging mentalis muscle twitches, was observed in 10 healthy children among the subjects. This loss began at 59.1 ms before the onset of REMs and lasted for 230.2 ms on average. In addition, a transient decrease in integrated REM activity surrounding mentalis muscle twitches (a twitch-related reduction of REMs) was observed. We discuss the similarity between REM-related phasic reduction of muscle activity obtained for intercostal and mentalis muscles and pontogeniculo-occipital (PGO) wave-related inhibitory postsynaptic potentials reported for feline lumbar and trigeminal motoneurons, respectively. We then assume the presence of a phasic event generator, functioning during active sleep in healthy humans, which triggers at least three generators; that is, the generator of PGO waves (or REMs), motor inhibition, and of motor excitation including muscle twitches.

MeSH terms

  • Brain Stem / physiology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Electromyography
  • Electrooculography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Intercostal Muscles / innervation
  • Intercostal Muscles / physiology
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Motor Neurons / physiology
  • Muscle Contraction / physiology
  • Respiration / physiology
  • Sleep, REM / physiology*
  • Trigeminal Nerve / physiology