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    Thread: The origin of REM sleep. New hypothesis

    1. #1
      Join Date
      May 2012

      The origin of REM sleep. New hypothesis

      Hello fellow dreamers,

      I just today stumbled onto a new hypothesis (from 2012) on why we have REM-sleep from Ioannis Tsoukalas, and I thought it may be of interest for many of you. At least I find it highly interesting.

      REM is an integral part of the human sleep cycle and the neurological substrate most consistently associated with dreams and dream recall. According to this thesis, REM sleep evolved out of a primordial defensive reflex: tonic immobility. This reflex, sometimes also called death-feigning or animal hypnosis, is usually the last line of defense against an attacking predator.
      Here is a very interesting Article from just few Month ago about this new hypothesis: Exploring the mystery REM sleep

      Especially this part at the end of the Article I find very interesting:

      One of the most intriguing suggestions that Tsoukalas raised was that the link between tonic immobility and REM sleep might provide evidence for the threat rehearsal theory proposed by evolutionary psychologists. Basically, the theory proposes that dreaming can be used to simulate threatening events to provide dreaming animals and humans with a way to review different ways to avoid these threats when awake. In the same way tonic immobility allows animals to avoid extreme threats, REM sleep may well let us practice how to cope successfully, as well as giving our bodies the chance to “recharge our batteries”. Even the rapid eye movements we show during dreaming can reflect the need to gather as much information as possible about our surroundings, much as we would if we were awake and in a dangerous situation.

      So, the new hypothesis states that REM-sleep is an evolved form of tonic immobility, that could be evidence for the threat-rehearsal theory which says that REM-sleep exists to allow animals and humans the ability to simulate different scenarios to learn how to better cope with them, before they maybe encounter them in waking life! The next step in this evolution must then be Lucid Dreams haha Of course like the Article states with its closing words, there is still lot to learn and to prove.

      Also I have the feeling that this hypothesis don't necessarily contradict existing ones, like that dreams also are used to strengthening semantic memories or helping with long-term memory etc. I mean, I am sure that REM-sleep, even if evolved from Tonic immobility, is used for more than just one or two purposes in our body.

      Anyway, just thought I should share this piece of information with you :-) I searched the Forum, so I hope I didn't overlook a similiar thread.

      Some more external links:

      Ioannis Tsoukalas
      Exploring the mystery REM sleep
      The origin of REM sleep: A hypothesis.
      Last edited by Oceandrop; 07-03-2013 at 04:02 PM.

    2. #2
      Join Date
      Oct 2009
      Hi there, and good find.

      As a Psychology student myself with an interest in sleep and dreams, I am already familiar with academic theories of dreaming, and have access to such journal articles, so I may go and find it and read it if I can. Thanks for pointing it out.
      I have read Antti Revonsuo's (2000) Threat Simulation Hypothesis, and it is a convincing theory based on empirically testable assumptions. However, I am more convinced by the works of J. Allan Hobson, of the Activation-Synthesis Model of dreaming, a neurobiological theory which supports itself with the necessary evidence from neurology. Hobson (2009) linked his ideas to other theories based on evidence, including the evolutionary approach, and now believes that REM sleep and dreaming is a state of 'protoconsciousness', which prepares us for waking life. This can be evidenced by the increased REM sleep in young babies, peaking especially before birth, and the fact that REM sleep is evolutionarily recent (egg-laying mammals have shown REM sleep for at least 200 million years, but only in hatchlings).

      Hope that information helps you a little. Like I said, I'll try and find Tsoukalas' article and have a read. Cheers.
      Oceandrop likes this.

    3. #3
      "O" will suffice. Achievements:
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      Good find!
      (Or see the very best of my journal entries @ dreamwalkerchronicles.blogspot)

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