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How seals sleep with half a brain

24-03-2013

The more we discover about sleep the more amazing it seems. Take this recent finding; did you know that seals sleep with half a brain? Well they do, this incredible trick allows them to catch a few zees while they are in the water, where they would otherwise drown when they slept. When they sleep on land they sleep with their whole brain.

So how do they do this?  A study published this month in the Journal of Neuroscience identified the chemical cues that allows the seal brain to remain half awake and asleep while they are in the water. The findings from this study could help explain the biological mechanisms which enable the brain to remain alert during waking hours and go off-line during sleep.

The researchers found that acetylcholine, a vital brain chemical, was at low levels on the sleeping side of the brain but at high levels on the waking side, suggesting that it may regulate brain alertness on the side that is awake. They also found that serotonin, a brain chemical long postulated as regulating sleep, was in equal amounts on both the sleeping and waking sides, suggesting that its role is not as clear cut as previously thought.


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