Scientists see surprising brain activity in sleeping octopuses that could mean they dream like us – DNyuz

Scientists see surprising brain activity in sleeping octopuses that could mean they dream like us

You may not have noticed, but when you’re deep in a dream you probably twitch, toss, and turn as your brain shifts to a more active state.

Turns out, you’re not so different from how an octopus sleeps, according to a new study published in the journal Nature on Wednesday.

For the study, scientists spied on multiple sleeping octopuses. They witnessed brief, recurring cycles where the cephalopods twitched and flashed brilliant rings of color across their pigmented skin.

To gain a better understanding of the brain activity of the cephalopods, scientists used probes in order to examine the octopuses at different stages of sleep as well as wakefulness.

By studying the octopus’s brain activity, the team found that these cephalopods have similar active and quiet sleep cycles to us mammals and that certain periods of their active stage resembles rapid eye movement sleep.

REM sleep is often when humans dream, leading scientists to wonder if octopuses may dream like us.

Octopuses and humans are separated by about 600 million years of evolution

The last common ancestor to cephalopods and humans lived some 600 million years ago, according to Medium. Therefore most scientists believe these aquatic animals function very differently from us in most respects.

But researchers discovered in this study that our sleep patterns are quite similar to those of an octopus.

“The fact that two-stage sleep has independently evolved in distantly related creatures, like octopuses, which have large but completely different brain structures from vertebrates, suggests that possessing an active, wake-like stage may be a general feature of complex cognition,” Leenoy Meshulam, co-author and theoretical physicist at the University of Washington School of Medicine and the UW Computational Neuroscience Center, told New Atlas.

To understand octopus sleep, the team examined the electrical wave patterns they recorded when the animals were awake and asleep. They found that the patterns were similar when the animals were experiencing REM-like sleep compared to when they were awake and engaged.

That data combined with the changes in their skin color during this sleep stage led the scientists to suggest that the octopuses could be recreating memories of wakefulness while sleeping, aka dreaming. Or, they suggested, it could be them running drills to practice their camouflaging skills while sleeping.

They don’t really know if it is the first or second. It is hard to ask an octopus about its sleep quality after all.

Even so, no matter how alien they may look, studies like this are a good reminder that we may share more similarities than differences.

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