A N I M A L

by stefani greenwood

By looking at the firing patterns of a group of cells in rats, scientists at MIT were able to determine that animals do dream and that their dreams are connected to actual experiences.  The experiment consisted of monitoring brain activity in trained rats running on a circular track for food rewards. This created distinct neuron patterns firing in the area involved with memory, the hippocampus (basically wired the same way in virtually all vertebrates and mammals).  They then monitored brain activity while the rats were sleeping, through the similar stages of sleep we go through – slow wave sleep to REM sleep.  Research showed that out of 40 REM episodes about half repeated the exact brain activity as when the rat was running. Interestingly, REM occurs approximately every 90 minutes in people, and every 25 minutes in cats. In dogs, research shows that the frequency and length of dreams is linked to physical size.

Matthew Wilson of MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory in Cambridge, Mass said that Charles Darwin basically claimed “if you can prove that an animal dreams, then, in effect, you can prove that’s consciousness. Because after all, what is a dream other than a conscious image?”

What does this say about humans and their hierarchal relationships with other animals?

DreamingCat’s Dream