Spontaneous Middle Ear Muscle Activity in Man: A Rapid Eye Movement Sleep Phenomenon

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Science  17 Nov 1972:
Vol. 178, Issue 4062, pp. 773-776
DOI: 10.1126/science.178.4062.773


Changes in compliance of the tympanic membrane have been detected in normal human sleep, presumably due to spontaneous contraction of the stapedius and tensor tympani muscles of the middle ear. In the waking state, these muscles generally respond to loud sound (middle ear reflex). Middle ear muscle activity typically erupts before or at the onset of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and persists throughout the REM period in a discontinuous pattern resembling that exhibited by rapid eye movements. Approximately 80 percent of all nocturnal middle ear muscle activity is contained in REM sleep. Half of the remaining 20 percent occurs in the 10-minute intervals just prior to the onset of REM sleep. Middle ear muscle activity is often associated with other phasic events such as momentary enhancement of electromyogram inhibition, apnea, and K complexes. Rapid eye movements and middle ear muscle activity, though significantly correlated in REM sleep, are not always simultaneous.