Rats Dream About Their Future Paths

Posted: Jun 29 2015, 5:45am CDT | by , in Latest Science News


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Rats Dream About Their Future Paths
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  • Rodents Dream during Sleep of their Future Exploration Strategies for Next Meal

It has been recently discovered by scientists that most rodents dream of their future exploration strategies during sleep.

ADIDAS is said to stand for All Day I Dream About Sports (or Sex!)…but the fact is each animal species on earth has its own story to tell as far as its personal dream life is concerned.

Researchers from the University College Londonhave found in a new study published on June 26 in eLife that rats have mental imagery going on in their brain centers during the sleep phase. These images mostly have to do with the future places the rodent plans on exploring. Talk about an addiction taking over your whole life.

Especially when frustrated in reaching their desired goals, rats will consistently dream about the cherished ideal and how to reach it. They will devise strategies in their dream life in order to at least fulfill their fantasies on a wishful basis.

“During exploration, mammals rapidly form a map of the environment in their hippocampus,” says senior author Dr Hugo Spiers (UCL Experimental Psychology).

“During sleep or rest, the hippocampus replays journeys through this map which may help strengthen the memory. It has been speculated that such replay might form the content of dreams. Whether or not rats experience this brain activity as dreams is still unclear, as we would need to ask them to be sure! Our new results show that during rest the hippocampus also constructs fragments of a future yet to happen. Because the rat and human hippocampus are similar, this may explain why patients with damage to their hippocampus struggle to imagine future events.”

This discovery holds profound meaning for that largest of dreamers, mankind. His inner life of dreams and dreamwork may be revealed all the better thanks to this recent rodent report. What we know for sure is that if the rat has explored an area, its hippocampus will light up while it is asleep. The scenes undergo a sort of action replay on an evolutionary and biological level.

The neurons that show excitement are the place cells in the hippocampus. Place cells allow both rodents and human beings to form maps of mentation. Memories about the exact location of various routes and exploratory pathways are located in this particular region of the brain.

When you are in one spot, place cells show activity. Then when you decide to move out of your comfort zone, the place cells go wild with electricity. This sort of meaningful change shows scientists new patterns in the behavioral and strategic planning of mankind and animals.

“What’s really interesting is that the hippocampus is normally thought of as being important for memory, with place cells storing details about locations you’ve visited,” explains co-lead author Dr Freyja Ólafsdóttir (UCL Biosciences).

“What’s surprising here is that we see the hippocampus planning for the future, actually rehearsing totally novel journeys that the animals need to take in order to reach the food.”

The farthest research into these matters has even led to the implantation of electrodes and nodes into the brains of rodents to see how the mechanism works in real life. This cannot be done with humans for obvious reasons.

“What we don't know at the moment is what these neural simulations are actually for,” says co-lead author Dr Caswell Barry (UCL Biosciences).

“It seems possible this process is a way of evaluating the available options to determine which is the most likely to end in reward, thinking it through if you like. We don't know that for sure though and something we'd like to do in the future is try to establish a link between this apparent planning and what the animals do next."

Imagination in rats is what is being explored here on a consistent basis. When rats were tested with a maze at the end of which there was food, they couldn’t reach the desired goal at the beginning.

Then when they were asleep later on, their brain activity showed them to be dreaming about how to reach the cherished food. Scientists think that human beings have brains that work in a similar manner to rodents but on a scale of far greater grandeur.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/20" rel="author">Sumayah Aamir</a>
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