A new study led by an international team of biologists has identified some of the brain chemicals that allow seals to sleep with half of their brain at a time.
The study was published this month in the Journal of Neuroscience and was headed by scientists at UCLA and the University of Toronto. It identified the chemical cues that allow the seal brain to remain half awake and asleep. Findings from this study may explain the biological mechanisms that enable the brain to remain alert during waking hours and go off-line during sleep.
"Seals do something biologically amazing — they sleep with half their brain at a time. The left side of their brain can sleep while the right side stays awake. Seals sleep this way while they're in water, but they sleep like humans while on land. Our research may explain how this unique biological phenomenon happens" said Professor John Peever of the University of Toronto.
The study's first author, University of Toronto PhD student Jennifer Lapierre, made this discovery by measuring how different chemicals change in the sleeping and waking sides of the brain. She found that acetylcholine – an important brain chemical – was at low levels on the sleeping side of the brain but at high levels on the waking side. This finding suggests that acetylcholine may drive brain alertness on the side that is awake.
But, the study also showed that another important brain chemical – serotonin - was present at the equal levels on both sides of the brain whether the seals were awake or asleep. This was a surprising finding because scientist long thought that serotonin was a chemical that causes brain arousal.
These findings have possible human health implications because "about 40% of North Americans suffer from sleep problems and understanding which brain chemicals function to keep us awake or asleep is a major scientific advance. It could help solve the mystery of how and why we sleep" says the study's senior author Jerome Siegel of UCLA's Brain Research Institute.
University of Toronto: http://www.utoronto.ca
This press release was posted to serve as a topic for discussion. Please comment below. We try our best to only post press releases that are associated with peer reviewed scientific literature. Critical discussions of the research are appreciated. If you need help finding a link to the original article, please contact us on twitter or via e-mail.
A veteran EMT and ambulance driver in Boston, Ed McCarthy is in a great position to understand his hometown spatially. But he’s also a history geek, and while constantly driving around the city’s neighborhoods, he loves recognizing the streets, buildings and other locales from the history books he so often buries his nose in.
The extinction of the biggest shark known to science may have triggered whales to grow to their current hefty sizes, a study suggests.
The UK's chief scientist says the oceans face a serious and growing risk from man-made carbon emissions.
Modifying neurons to flash as electrical impulses pass along them lets researchers grow light-up brains in a dish and eavesdrop on their chatter
They lived on a remote dot of land in the middle of the Pacific, 2,300 miles (3,700 km) west of South America and 1,100 miles (1,770 km) from the closest island, erecting huge stone figures that still stare enigmatically from the hillsides.
In a bleak, treeless landscape high in the southern Peruvian Andes, bands of intrepid Ice Age people hunkered down in rudimentary dwellings and withstood frigid weather, thin air and other hardships.
A viral video shows people lauding fare billed as an "organic" fast-food option that was actually McDonald's. It wasn't just pranksters playing tricks on these poor folks, but maybe their brains, too.
Deinocheirus mirificus, or unusual horrible hand, had long, clawed forearms, a sail on its back and a duck-like bill
Open letter says claims made for brain games are not based on sound evidence and that playing them may have opposite effect
A significant Bronze Age pottery find is made during an archaeological dig on the east side of Lewis, in Scotland.