Sunday, February 1, 2009

Eye Movement: Cause & Effect

I remember a few months ago after a long span of coffee intake with R, we had a hypothesis of eye movement invoking dreaming, rather than dreaming invoking eye moment. I know, it sounded crazy that the relation to eye movement causing REM would have any scientific backing, but we did have a lot of coffee in us. I put that theory and I am sure R did too, into the far reaches of our mind never to come up again, until today.

I recently read something interesting in Dr. Hobson's book "The Dream Drugstore" about eye movement and release of acetylcholine. "In fact, the phasic bursts of acetylcholine (ACh) neuronal discharge appear to be strictly and precisely related to eye movement control by the paramedian reticular formation and the oculomotor system." He continues by saying, "This means that extreme eye movements (as in upward eye rolling and gaze fixation) could produce powerful changes in cholinergic output" (Hobson, 1993, p. 91).

I had read something earlier in the same book where Dr. Hobson described that fixations reduces eye movement and relates to the inability to see something. This means that even when we are looking directly at something, our eyes are slightly moving back and forth in micro movements. This makes it so we can see the object as like radar sees a target.

In conclusion to all of this, it seems that maybe the cause and effect of REM maybe a little backwards. That maybe our eye movement helps support or causes the release of acetylcholine which causes much of our dreams. Regardless as how crazy it sounds, there is some evidence out there that it does in some way support dreaming or disassociation.



  1. Crazy!!! Mwhahahaha! I knew that coffee induced genius would produce something of worth one of these days.

    This is really, really fascinating though. It also makes me think of meditation techniques involving the eyes.

    So I wonder what’s going on here. Hmmm…maybe the dreams coming from Non-REM sleep get an individual’s eyes moving. Which in turn increases acetylcholine, which then feeds into the actual REM cycle beginning until the said individual reaches their EEG peak and then slips back down. Eh?

    Great stuff though. Thanks L


  2. It would be interesting to have a study done where they watch the reaction time of eye movement and the activation of the EEG showing REM. Its possible it would show that the eyes react before the brain, since the activation of REM starts in the pontine brain stem where it administers acetylcholine to different areas of the brain.

    Thanks for your comment R.

    Also the blasted word doc somehow didn't update my changes from Friday. I think I ended up passing out from loss of sleep that next day at about 3:00 AM and didn't save my work. I had about 2 hours of work last night to make up for this. Its all good now :)


  3. Dear L&R,

    The LDIS unit I built in 2005 could record continuous eye motions on a 2D vector array. It recorded the magnitude and angle of the eyeball motion in the X,Y direction. The system could be used to record REM after the person took a large dose of a racetam which reduces ACh. So this idea could be tested under controlled conditions. Consider however that when your eyes are closed the eyeball does not twitch much, nothing compared to actively seeing objects. It does still respond to light coming in through the closed eyelids, which was proven by LaBerge.


    Scot Stride

  4. Mr. Stride,

    Thanks for the info. Unfortunately right now I am in no position to conduct that type of research. I do agree with you that it wouldn't be very hard to test this hypothesis with the unit you built.

    I'll make sure to contact you about this.


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