For several years now, scientists have been making great strides in terms of studying the human and animal brain. Just look at the fact that the company Neuralink was able to monitor the brain activity of a monkey and teach it to control a computer using the power of thought. But with all this, much in the work of this complex organ is still a mystery for scientists. Researchers are constantly studying the work of the brain in laboratory conditions, and in most cases they do it on the example of experimental animals. Recently, neurobiologists decided to try to turn off some cells of the dentate gyrus in mice and see what happens. It turned out that this action increases the duration of their wakefulness for as much as 3 hours and does not cause their desire to sleep afterwards. According to the authors of scientific work, with surgery, the rodents can add about 3 years of conscious life, and in the case of humans, this figure can be as much as 10 years. So what does this mean – soon we will be able to get rid of sleepiness and stop drinking invigorating coffee?
How to reduce the duration of sleep in mice?
The results of the scientific work were published in the journal Nature Neuroscience. For the experiment, scientists took laboratory mice, because their brain is as similar as possible to the human brain. The researchers gathered a group of 5 males and turned off their pyramidal and granular cells, the smallest neurons in the dentate gyrus of the brain. This section is in the hippocampus, which is involved in the formation of emotions, orientation in the environment, and the transition of short-term memory to long-term memory. As it turns out, this part of the brain is also involved in controlling sleep and wakefulness.
After the small neurons in the dentate gyrus were turned off, the lab mice became 3 hours more awake each day than usual. Considering that the average lifespan of mice is about two years, each animal gained about 3 additional years of wakefulness. In theory, for humans, this would equate to an additional 10 years. Of particular note is the fact that the lost sleep time did not need to be replenished afterwards – it was as if the mice simply began to feel less tired.
Impact of the discovery on the future of medicine
According to the authors of the scientific work, this is an important discovery that could make modern medicine even better in the future. For example, doctors may be able to treat sleep disorders with brain stimulation. And to increase the duration of awakeness, they may not have to perform brain surgery, because there are now non-contact methods of regulating brain activity. It is possible that there will be people in the world who want to undergo the procedure for no obvious reason, just to be able to work more or to find time for family and so on.