Do rats dream?

Recent research has made an interesting discovery in the world of dream study. . We are now confident that rats dream. Maybe some of you are not surprised by this unusual news, nevertheless you must all be wondering…What do they dream about? Apparently, rats dream about where they want to go. It is true! In a recent study at University College in London researchers, tempted study rats with an unobtainable treat. The path to their bite-sized prize was purposely blocked. When the rats took a nap immediately following their unsuccessful attempts at getting treats, their brain activity escalated. The neurons that represented the path they need to take to attain the prize “lit up’. The neurons firing in their brains clearly showed that they were dreaming about running down the course to retrieve the treat. Researchers have previously proven that rats, like humans, store their “world map” in the section of the brain known as the hippocampus. By placing electrodes in the rat’s brains, scientists are able to see how rat brains “map” locations the rat has been, or might want to go.

Because we can see how these location neurons sequence as they fire when the rat is remembering, we can logically assume that the rat is dreaming when the same sequence fires in its sleep. Rats use these “mental maps” much as we would. The information is sorted through in an attempt to find the best route to accomplish our objective. In the case of a rat trying to reach food, dreaming about it is probably paramount to our dreams about problem solving, or reaching a special goal. When the rat is allowed to go after the treat upon awakening, the firing neurons in its brain show that the rat is using the information it dreamed about to obtain its goal. Researchers have studied human’s sleep patterns, and found much the same results. University of Minnesota conducted sleep studies that showed our brains worked in much the same way. Test subjects were asked to nap inside a brain scanner.

Upon waking, they were instructed to record their dreams. The dreams they described matched the activity shown in the neurons firing in their brains. By applying the same theories, we can draw the conclusion that rats not only dream about where they have been, but where they want to go. These studies show that rats, like people use dreams as a problem-solving tool. This is just one more piece of the puzzle that will bring us closer to understanding the behavior of rats, and possibly give us more insight into our own psyche.

Read the How to get rid of rats page for helpful information and to learn more about Do rats dream?

Do rats dream?

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