Zebrafish Help Us Learn What Happens When We Sleep

We can learn a lot from a zebrafish.  A new study released this week from the Stanford School of Medicine got a little help from the small fish, to show how sleep and the body’s circadian clock affect the number of neuron-to-neuron connections in a particular region of the brain.  Pretty serious stuff for a fish!

The zebrafish were useful in the study because their larvae sleep at night (just like most humans) and are transparent.  Because they’re transparent, researchers are able to easily observe the fish’s neural network while it slumbers.

“When you’re awake in the day, you create more and more synapses to do things, but at a certain point, this would be unsustainable,” said Emmanual Mignot, senior author of the paper and director of the Stanford Center for Sleep Sciences and Medicine. “Sleep is needed to clear all the synapses that are not helpful — to prune the synapses that have not been used much.”

While similar theories had previously been established about invertebrates, scientists had never before concretely demonstrated this sleep-related synaptic change in vertebrates, a group into which humans fall.

Source: The Stanford Daily

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