Here’s something even neater: These bursts zip inside awake sheep’s brains, too. These spindles haven’t been spotted in healthy, awake people’s brains. But the sheep findings, published March 2 in eNeuro, raise that possibility.
The purpose of sleep
spindles, which look like jagged bursts of electrical activity on an electroencephalogram,
isn’t settled. One idea is that these bursts help lock new memories into the
brain during sleep. Daytime ripples, if they exist in people, might be doing
something similar during periods of wakefulness, the researchers speculate.
Jenny Morton, a neurobiologist at the University of Cambridge, and her colleagues studied six female merino sheep with implanted electrodes that spanned their brains. The team collected electrical patterns that emerged over two nights and a day. As the sheep slept, sleep spindles raced across their brains. These spindles are akin to those in people during non-REM sleep, which accounts for the bulk of an adult’s sleeping night (SN: 8/10/10).