When you go to sleep at night, dreaming can be one of the resulting consequences. Now scientists involved in a study on mice have discovered two genes that are responsible for dreaming.
According to Live Science, the genes named Chrm 1 and Chrm 3 are responsible for the rapid eye movement (REM) that occurs when one is asleep. Without these two genes, it would be highly unlikely that dreaming was possible. These “dream genes” could also account for whether or not you get restful sleep.
It is this restful sleep that the researchers conducting this study are interested in, thanks to the correlation between poor sleep and psychiatric disorders. The study which identified these dream genes was conducted at the Japanese research institute, Riken. As a result of their findings, they now hope that “understanding the basic control of sleep in the brain could refine pharmaceutical treatments for both sleep and psychiatric problems.”
Study leader, Hiroki Ueda, explained the importance of sound sleep to Live Science.
“Sound sleep is essential to the quality of human life, while some impairment in sleep may lead to various untoward consequences,” Ueda said.
However, Ueda adds that the “molecular machinery [of sleep] largely remains to be revealed, hindering the development of treatments for sleep-related diseases.”
During the study, the genes Chrm 1 and Chrm 3 were found to help with REM sleep and therefore helped people to dream. In addition, this led to a more restful sleep. If one or more of these genes were removed, less restful sleep occurred. In addition, sleep, in general, was reduced by as much as three hours per night. And, if Chrm 1 and Chrm 3 were not present at all, it was considered impossible to experience the REM phase of sleep.
However, while REM sleep was considered vital to survival, the mice used in the study lived despite not having the Chrm 1 and Chrm 3 genes present. However, the animal’s survival might come down to the fact that they are artificially controlled within the laboratory environment.
“[The] mice can survive in a laboratory condition with a lot of food and without any [enemies],” Ueda told Live Science. “In a wild environment, these genes would be important for the survival of organisms.”
The study has also found that the “transition from non-REM to REM sleep involves a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine.” However, with 16 types of cellular receptors in the brain that this neurotransmitter can adhere to, it is unclear yet which are important and which are redundant when it comes to REM sleep.
With this new research, it is expected that it will be possible to “inform new treatments for psychiatric disorders like depression and post-traumatic stress disorder,” according to Ueda.
Although, it is still early days in regard to this study and further investigation will likely be performed in order to gather a better understanding of how and why we dream.