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Sleep and Dreaming

Nevertheless, certain physical actions tend coincide with the brain activity of REM sleep. The sleeper experiences an increase in the heart rate and pulse, and "the eyes dart back and forth between closed lids, breathing becomes irregular, and there are frequent small muscle twitches" (Palca, 1989, p. 352). Most physiologists agree that the phenomenon of REM results from the movement of neurons within the brainstem. Robert McCarley and J. Allan Hobson of Harvard University have pointed out that a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine is involved in producing REM. These researchers have noted that: "The acetylcholine neurons send rapid bursts of electrical signals to the cortex, the seat of higher thought and vision. The cortex takes this information and weaves it into a coherent story . . . interpreting the signals by referring to pre-existing memories" (Begley, 1989, p. 44). These factors may also help to explain the unique nature of dreams. As such, dreams relate to everyday life because they are based in part on memories. At the same time, dreams have a bizarre quality because "the cortex receives signals from the brainstem and not the outside world" (Begley, p. 44). Although physiologists have conducted numerous studies on sleep and dreams, they have yet to reach any final conclusions regarding why people sleep and dream. Some researchers believe that sleep gives the body a chance to rest and rep


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Sleep and Dreaming. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 17:19, October 24, 2014, from
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