June 14, 2024

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Brain cells may actually try to predict the future during sleep

Brain cells may actually try to predict the future during sleep

The neurons that fire within the brain’s memory center while we sleep may not just be revisiting past experiences. According to a new study, they can also look to the future and practice an activity that has not yet happened.

A team led by researchers from the University of Michigan analyzed brain wave readings from mice during waking and sleeping times. Readings were taken before, during, and after the animals encountered the maze challenges in order to assess the neurons’ preferences while outside the maze, such as during rest periods.

“We approached this challenge by relating the activity of each individual neuron to the activity of all other neurons“,” He says Anesthesiologist Kamran Diba from the University of Michigan.

“Being able to track neuronal preferences even without a stimulus was an important breakthrough for us.”

Researchers have developed a new method to analyze neuronal activity. (Kamran Diba)

The new approach meant that in addition to correlating the physical spaces in the maze with specific neural activity in real time, the team could also work backwards and map neuronal activity to points in the maze while the mice were asleep.

This was made possible through A Machine learning The process of evaluating the relationships of neurons to each other rather than looking at them separately. Based on the firing of neurons during sleep Then again during the next maze attemptThe mice were not only dreaming of the places they had already visited in the maze, but were also working on potential new routes.

These are important findings in the study Spatial adjustmentThe way the activity of specific neurons is linked to specific locations. This adjustment is a dynamic process, and the sleeping brain appears to be involved in it.

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When the mice were returned to the maze after sleep, the neural activity measured during their sleep was somewhat predictive of the new ways in which the mice explored their surroundings. The matches were not exact, but they were close enough to hint at a relationship between dreams and future intentions.

“We can see these other changes happen during sleep, and when we put the animals back in the environment, we can verify that these changes really reflect something that was learned while the animals were sleeping.” He says Neuroscientist Caleb Kemmerer, from Rice University in the United States.

“It is as if the second exposure to space actually occurs while the animal is sleeping.”

It has been proven that sleep It helps us make memoriesAlthough this study only looked at mice, it’s possible that something similar is happening in human brains: a kind of training for future adventures.

What happens inside our sleeping brains remains fascinating — affecting everything from how we learn to how we keep the brain safe — and this latest study provides further insight.

“It’s not necessarily the only thing these neurons are doing during sleep is consolidating the memory of the experience.” He says Kemeri. “It turns out that some neurons end up doing something else.”

The research was published in nature.