Date
24 March 2017
Why do our eyes sometimes flicker during sleep? Scientists believe they have found the answer. Photo: UCLA
Why do our eyes sometimes flicker during sleep? Scientists believe they have found the answer. Photo: UCLA

Flickering eyes during sleep linked to change of scene in dream

Scientists say they have discovered what is going on when rapid eye movements are seen during certain phases of sleep.

The neuroscientists said brain activity in REM sleep is “very, very similar” to when people see a new image when awake.

The finding strongly suggests that the eye movements are linked to a “change of scene” during a dream, the BBC reported.

The researchers, whose study is published in the journal Nature, worked with sleeping volunteers with epilepsy who had electrodes implanted into their brains, the New Scientist reported.

Lead researcher Yuval Nir, of Tel Aviv University, told the BBC the region of the brain where most of the electrodes were located — the medial temporal lobe — and where the activity was observed deals not with vision so much as mental imagery.

That may explain why rapid eye movements have been observed in fetuses and people who are blind.

The brain activity peaked roughly a quarter of a second after the eye flicker, much as it does during wakefulness.

Nir said he’s “sure that the brain is alternating between different mental imagery. Every time you move your eyes, a new image forms in the mind’s eye”.

REM sleep has also been linked to religious experiences.

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