A team of scientists has conducted a new study which suggests that rats actually have the mental capacity of dreaming. According to the researchers, rats dream of new places where they can find food. These rat “dreams” occur when the rodents are resting and their brains start to simulate future journey where the animal can locate food.
In order to determine what rats dream of, the researchers monitored their brain to see how it reacts to different scenarios. The first step of the experiment was to examine the brain as the rats were looking at food somewhere they couldn’t reach, like a different room. Then, the researchers monitored the rats’ brain activity while the rodents were resting in a different location; the third stage of the study was to monitor the animals’ brain activity while they walked toward the food they’ve been showed at the beginning of the study.
Hugo Spiers, the leader of the study, explained that during their exploration, the animals have the ability of mapping their surrounding and store the information in the part of the brain known as the hippocampus. Spiers said that while the animals rest or sleep, the hippocampus replays the journeys they have taken during waking hours, which actually helps fortify the memory of those places. Some studies suggests that what the brain replays may actually appear in the form of dreams.
According to the scientists, it’s not exactly certain whether rats dream like humans do, but a similar brain activity does occur. Spiers said jokingly that the only way to know if rats dream is to ask them.
The research also showed that during sleep, the hippocampus can also construct fragments of future journeys that haven’t taken place yet. According to the experts, rats and humans have a similar hippocampus, which may explain why some patients who experience brain damage have difficulties in imagining future events
The study suggests that the hippocampus is responsible for planning the routes that are yet to happen, and some believe that this brain section ca also record the events that have already occurred, but only if they were motivated by something, like food.
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