Open eyes, dozing minds

Scientists find that rats that stay up late are neither fully asleep nor fully awake

By Stephen Ornes, 17:27 PM May 18, 2011

In this composite image of the brains of 20 different people, the pink areas represent parts of the brain that are uniquely human. To better understand the human brain, scientists often study the brains of animals. In a new study, scientists kept rats awake past their bedtime. The researchers found that although the sleep-deprived rats were active and kept their eyes open, some of their brain cells dozed as though the animals were asleep.

The difference between sleeping and being awake seems simple enough. You know someone is sleeping because his eyes are closed, he’s lying down and inactive, he doesn’t answer your questions, and he might be snoring. People who are awake, on the other hand, have open eyes, can get things done, are responsive to questions and generally don’t snore. If you were to look at a group of animals, you could probably tell which were asleep and which were awake.

But a new study suggests sleeping may...

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