Studying The Role Of Sleep, Twitching In Sensorimotor Development
Twitching during sleep was once believed to be a byproduct of dreaming, but according to research by Mark Blumberg, University of Iowa F. Wendell Miller Distinguished Professor of Psychological & Brain Sciences, twitching during REM sleep actually helps the development of the brain in young organisms.
Blumberg has received a $5 million MERIT Award from the National Institutes of Health for his work and was recognized as the Scholar of the Year at the Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development’s Discovery and Innovation Awards event in April.
Blumberg said we usually think of sleep as the time when we stop doing things. We’re resting, isolated from our environments, and in our own worlds.
“You would think that when animals are asleep, they’re not going to have that much brain activity, and then when they wake up, the activity will be really robust, because they’re awake,” he said. “You would think the brain would reflect the behavior. But we’ve seen exactly the opposite.”
Blumberg and his team have proven that information coming from a twitching limb during sleep activates many different areas of the brain, but when the animal wakes up, that information is suppressed.