Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Birds sleep like humans

In today's New York Times, an article by Carl Zimmer discusses the similarities in sleep patterns between birds and humans. For instance, birds experience slow-wave sleep, which scientists in Germany studied.

Niels Rattenborg of the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Germany tested this hypothesis by depriving pigeons of some slow-wave sleep. “We kept pigeons from taking their daytime naps,” he said. “All we did was tap their cage or move the cage floor or give them things to play with for eight hours before we turned the lights off.”

After the lights went dark, the pigeons had slow waves 27 percent stronger than on undisturbed nights. “What we found was that they actually showed response very much like that observed in mammals,” Dr. Rattenborg said. “There’s something in common in being a bird and being a mammal that results in sleeping this way.”
Dr. Rattenborg also learned that birds can keep one side of their brains awake while the other side sleeps. Amazing!

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