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Sleeping Birds

February 10, 2010

Birds, like people, show improvements in learning and memory after sleeping.


Linking bird and human sleep. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

A good night’s sleep consolidates our memories and new skills. Now, University of Chicago neuroscientist Timothy Brawn and his colleagues have seen this in birds. They taught starlings to react differently to two different birdsongs, and re-tested them a few hours later. The birds performed better if they slept during the break, but not if they stayed awake. Brawn says having an animal model will make it possible to study sleep and learning more closely.

TIMOTHY BRAWN (University of Chicago):
In animals we can actually go in and record the activity of individual brain cells, either while the animal is actually doing a task, or while the animal is sleeping. That’s something we clearly can’t do in humans.

The findings also suggest that sleep and learning began to intertwine early in evolutionary history. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.