Researchers Find Surprise Communication Between Brain Regions Involved in Infant Motor Control
Important interaction happens during REM sleep
A newborn’s brain is abuzz with activity. Day and night, it is processing signals from all over the body, from recognizing the wriggles of the child’s own fingers and toes to the sound of mommy’s or daddy’s voice. Though much of how the infant brain works and develops remains a mystery, University of Iowa researchers say they have uncovered a new mode of communication between two relatively distant regions. And, it turns out that sleep is key to this communication. When two areas of the brain communicate, their rhythms will often synchronize. One well-known brain rhythm, the theta rhythm, is most closely associated with the hippocampus, a region in the forebrain important for consolidating memories and navigation, among other functions. In experiments with infant rats, the researchers showed for the first time that the hippocampus oscillates in lockstep with the red nucleus, a brain-stem structure that plays a major role in motor control. Importantly, the hippocampus and red nucleus synchronize almost exclusively during REM (active) sleep.
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