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Sleeping fish can help us understand why we sleep / Boing Boing

New research shows that zebrafish sleep habits are similar to those of humans and other mammals, birds and lizards, slow-moving and paradoxical sleep. In addition, the study suggests that these sleep signatures appeared in the brain of our common ancestor more than 450 million years ago. According to scientists, a better understanding of the evolution of sleep could shed light on its biological processes and eventually lead to new treatments for sleep disorders. From National Geographic:

Based on our understanding of the evolving relationships between fish and mammals, the team suggests that REM-like sleep states evolved over 450 million years ago, making this type of sleep a deeply rooted biological phenomenon.

"We share a spine, but we share much more than that," says co-author of the study, Philippe Mourrain, neuroscientist at Stanford University. "It facilitates the understanding of sleep and what it does in us …"

Lead author, Louis C. Leung, neuroscientist at Stanford University, built the microscope responsible for the complex imaging performed for the study. Most body activities are choreographed by a complex network of nerve cells, or neurons. When the neurons are active, they release calcium. The researchers genetically modified the zebrafish to include a protein that would blink fluorescent green when it detected calcium, indicating that an area of ​​the body is active …

This breakthrough could be particularly useful for health professionals seeking to design new drugs to combat the growing epidemic of sleep deprivation in many countries. Sleep-improving drugs may help those who have difficulty drifting. By implementing these techniques in the future, we can potentially better screen drugs to determine if they are activating the right cells, so that patients wake up refreshed, Leung says.

"Neuronal signatures of sleep in zebrafish" (Nature)

image: "Zebrafish" by Azul (Wikimedia Commons)

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David Pescovitz

David Pescovitz is the co-publisher of Boing Boing. On Instagram he is @pesco.


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