What happens in our brain while we sleep? A striped, pinky-sized aquarium pet may help us get closer to an answer: In a new study involving zebrafish, Stanford researchers showed how sleep and the body's circadian clock affect the number of neuron-to-neuron connections in a particular region of the brain.
This is the first time differences in the number of these connections, called synapses, between day and night and between night and sleep have been shown in a living animal. (The work was made possible because larvae of the fish, which were previously shown to sleep at night like humans, are transparent - enabling researchers to look directly at the animal's neuronal network.) And first author Lior Applebaum, PhD, told me that by using the imaging method he and colleagues developed, researchers can uncover what happens in other parts of the brain during sleep.
The work appears online in the journal Neuron.