Lifestyle - What Do Dogs Dream About
What do dogs dream about? Have you ever wondered? Is she really hunting rabbits, or is she just twitching in her sleep? Do dogs dream as we do?
While we don’t have all of the answers, scientists are taking steps to figure out dog dreams, bringing us one step closer to understanding our canine companions.
Do Dogs Dream?
Humans don’t have a monopoly on dreams. In fact, scientists believe that most vertebrates, and maybe even the humble fruit fly, can – and do – dream on a regular basis.
Like us, dogs and other animals go through several sleep cycles. There are periods of wakefulness, followed by Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, and non-rapid-eye-movement sleep. REM sleep is the period responsible for the most memorable and vivid dreams and is believed to be a part of how the body processes memory, among other things. Scientists can track these cycles and associated brain activity using specialized equipment.
One of the most famous of these dream experiments involved lab rats. These rats spent all day running in a maze. Scientists monitored the brain activity of the rats in the maze and compared it to the brain activity of the rats during REM sleep. What they found was that the same areas lit up in the rats’ brains, which meant that the rats were likely to be dreaming of the maze, and by comparing the data the researchers could figure out where exactly in the maze the rats had dreamed themselves.
This suggested to the researchers that animals tend to dream as we do. The rats dreamed about their day, just like you might find yourself back in the office in your dreams, even if you would rather have dreamed yourself someplace more exciting. Researchers at MIT concluded that animals have complex dreams, and they can remember and replay long sequences of events when they are asleep.
The US National Sleep Foundation reports that dogs spend about half their day sleeping. For puppies, senior dogs, and larger breeds, time spent sleeping can be even longer.
What Do Dogs Dream About?
Most dogs lead more interesting lives than rats. To figure out what dogs might dream of, researchers performed a test that temporarily disabled the pons.
If, like me, you’d never heard of the pons before this, let me explain. The pons is the part of the brain stem that is involved in the control of sleep cycles and the regulation of deep sleep and is responsible for inhibiting your large muscles from moving during sleep. In other words, you can thank the pons for preventing your partner from flailing around during dreams and waking you up. Without the pons, we might act out everything we were dreaming about — probably with disastrous results.
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