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General Health Channel
Reported November 19, 2012

What’s Responsible for Leaving You Breathless

 

(Ivanhoe Newswire) – From snoring that shakes the entire house to sleep apnea that leaves people waking up in the middle of the night because they can’t catch their breath, researchers believe they now know what’s involved in these sleep related issues. 
 
A recent study discovered for the first time the brain mechanism mediating the inhibition of important breathing muscles during REM sleep. 
 
The researchers studied rats during their sleep-wake states after manipulating the areas of the rats’ brains that control the tongue muscles during sleep. 
 
Researchers manipulated the brain region that controls the tongue muscles because the tongue is very important in the breathing process. The tongue’s activity keeps the airspace behind the tongue open so that air is able to effectively pass into the lungs, but if the tongue’s muscles are inhibited then it could fall backward and block the space causing breathing problems like sleep apnea. 
 
They found that during REM sleep the activities of the tongue muscles were suppressed due to the brain chemical acetylcholine mediating a powerful inhibition of breathing muscle activity. 
 
“The brain mechanism mediating inhibition of the critical breathing muscles in REM sleep was unknown, but a novel and powerful inhibitory mechanism is identified for the first time in our study,” researcher Dr. Horner, Ph.D., Professor of Medicine and Physiology at the University of Toronto, was quoted as saying.  
 
The critical discovery could be used to in the future to help those with breathing problems while they sleep. 
 
“Identifying the fundamental mechanism responsible for the shutting down of a muscle in sleep that is critical for effective breathing also identifies a rational drug target designed to prevent this inactivity and so prevent obstructive sleep apnea and other sleep-related breathing problems,” Dr. Horner was quoted as saying. 
 
Hopefully one-day people will be able to breathe easier thanks to this study. 
 
Source: American Thoracic Society’s American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, November, 2012 
 

 

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