Rapid Eye Movement Motor Atonia

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Definition - What does Rapid Eye Movement Motor Atonia mean?

The body shifts between rapid-eye movement (REM) and non-REM sleep cycles throughout the sleep period. During the REM cycle, the body can experience temporary paralysis in the arms and legs, known as motor atonia. The brain signals the spinal cord during the REM cycle to cease movement, creating temporary paralysis in the limbs.

SureHire explains Rapid Eye Movement Motor Atonia

While the body is experiencing this temporary paralysis in the REM cycle, the eyes are moving rapidly from side to side. Neurotransmitters gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and glycine are responsible for signalling to the spinal cord to cease movement. Both neurotransmitters must be present to prevent muscle movement during the REM cycle. When the signal to the spinal cord is interrupted, individuals do not experience motor atonia and can seemingly "act out" their dreams, since the REM cycle is also responsible for dreaming.

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