Muscle tone regulation during REM sleep: Neural Circuitry and Clinical Significance

R. Vetrivelan, C. Chang, J. Lu

Abstract


Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep is a distinct behavioral state characterized by an activated cortical and hippocampal electroencephalogram (EEG) and concurrent muscle atonia. Research conducted over the past 50 years has revealed the neuronal circuits responsible for the generation and maintenance of REM sleep, as well as the pathways involved in generating the cardinal signs of REM sleep such as cortical activation and muscle atonia. The generation and maintenance of REM sleep appear to involve a widespread network in the pons and medulla. The caudal laterodorsal tegmental nucleus (cLDT) and sublaterodorsal nucleus (SLD) within the dorsolateral pons contain REM-on neurons, and the ventrolateral periaqueductal grey (vlPAG) contains REM-off neurons. The interaction between these structures is proposed to regulate REM sleep amounts. The cLDT-SLD neurons project to the basal forebrain via the parabrachial-precoeruleus (PB-PC) complex, and this pathway may be critical for the EEG activation seen during REM sleep. Descending SLD glutamatergic projections activate the ventromedial medulla, and spinal cord interneurons mediate muscle atonia and suppress phasic muscle twitches in spinal musculature. In contrast, phasic muscle twitches in the masseter muscles may be driven by glutamatergic neurons in the rostral parvicellular reticular nucleus (PCRt); however, the brain region responsible for generating phasic twitches in the other cranial muscles including facial muscles and tongue are not clear.


Keywords


sublaterodorsal nucleus; ventromedial medulla; spinal muscles; cranial muscles; phasic twitches

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