Rats Dream of Desired Future

Rats Dream of Desired Future

A recent study conducted by a team of researchers from the University College London revealed that when rats rest, their brains start making a journey to a desired future such as a tasty treat. Study's findings were published in the journal eLife.

Researchers for the study monitored brain activity in rats, first when the rats saw food kept at a particular location they could not reach, and then as they rested in a separate chamber, and finally as they were allowed to walk towards food.

Rats were individually placed on a straight track with a T-junction ahead. Access to the junction as well as the left and right hand arms beyond it was prevented by a transparent barrier.

When the barrier was removed, the animals were returned to the track and were allowed to run across the junction and on to the arms. During the rest period, the data showed that place cells that would later provide an internal map of the food arm were active.

The activity of specialized brain cells involved in navigation suggested that during the rest the rats simulated walking to and from food that they had been unable to reach.

As per study authors, their study could help to explain why some people with damage to a part of the brain called the hippocampus are unable to imagine the future.

Senior author Dr. Hugo Spiers from the University College London said in a statement that during exploration, mammals rapidly form a map of this environment in their hippocampus.

"During sleep or rest, the hippocampus replays journeys through this map which may help strengthen the memory. It has been speculated that such replay might form the content of dreams", said Spiers.

Researchers said rat and human hippocampus are similar, this may explain why patients with damage to their hippocampus struggle to imagine future events.