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'Power napping' in pigeons
Date:3/3/2008

This release is available in German.

In humans, as in all mammals, sleep consists of two phases: deep, dreamless slow-wave-sleep (SWS) alternates with dream phases, called Rapid Eye Movement (REM)-sleep. Although several studies suggest that information is processed and memories are consolidated during sleep, this remains a hotly debated topic in neurobiology. Comparative studies in birds may help to clarify the function of sleep by revealing overriding principles that would otherwise remain obscure if we only studied mammals. This is because birds are the only taxonomic group other than mammals to show both SWS and REM sleep. Interestingly, the independent evolution of similar sleep states in birds and mammals might be related to the fact that each group also independently evolved large brains capable of performing complex cognitive processes. In their actual study, researchers from the Max-Planck Institute of Ornithology in Seewiesen, Germany showed for the first time that birds compensate for sleep loss in a manner similar to humans (Journal of Sleep Research, Online-Publication February 27, 2008).

During SWS, the synchronous, slow oscillations of neurons are reflected in the EEG (Electroencephalogram), as large slow-waves with a frequency of less than 4 Hz, hence the name slow-wave sleep. The amount of slow-waves is positively correlated with the depth of sleep, and may reflect restorative processes occurring during sleep. Indeed, humans, and other mammals, recover from periods of sleep loss, primarily by increasing the amount of slow-waves, particularly during the first hours of SWS, in essence sleeping more intensely. Although birds also show SWS, it has been unclear whether they show a similar response to sleep loss. Dolores Martinez-Gonzalez and colleagues at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Seewiesen found now, that birds - i
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Contact: Dr. Niels Rattenborg
rattenborg@orn.mpg.de
49-815-793-2279
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
Source:Eurekalert  

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'Power napping' in pigeons
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