Sleeping people have fast zags of neural activity. One idea is that these sudden bursts of neural activity help lock new memories into the brain while the person is asleep. Sleeping sheep, like us humans, also experience these bursts. But there’s something strange going on in their brains: these bursts also appear in awake sheep’s brains.
Jenny Morton, a neurobiologist at the University of Cambridge, and her colleagues studied six female merino sheep with implanted electrodes that spanned their brains. The team collected electrical patterns that emerged over two nights and a day. As the sheep slept, sleep spindles raced across their brains. These spindles are akin to those in people during non-REM sleep, which accounts for the bulk of an adult’s sleeping night.
But the electrodes also caught spindles during the day, when the sheep were clearly awake. These “wake” spindles “looked different from those we saw at night,” Morton says, with different densities, for instance. Overall, these spindles were also less abundant and more localized, captured at single, unpredictable spots in the sheep’s brains.
What could be the possible role of these daytime bursts? Morton says she doesn’t know, but she and her colleagues suspect that studying these daytime bursts may reveal clues about human disorders.
Check out ScienceNews for more details about the study.
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