Neuroscience

Sleeping in standby mode

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Science  15 Feb 2019:
Vol. 363, Issue 6428, pp. 704-705
DOI: 10.1126/science.363.6428.704-a

Even when asleep, humans remain alert to external stimuli.

PHOTO: ISTOCK.COM/STEPHANE NOIRET

Sleep is essential, but it makes us unable to interact and vulnerable. Yet the sleeping brain continues to process stimuli from the environment. Legendre et al. presented awake and sleeping subjects with relevant and irrelevant stories via both ears while recording the neural responses in their brains with electroencephalography. Although sleepers seemed unresponsive, their brains clearly registered external stimuli to an extent that depended on specific brain rhythms and sleep depth. Thus, sleepers can process surrounding events sufficiently to know when it might be a good idea to rapidly wake up.

Nat. Hum. Behav. 10.1038/s41562-018-0502-5 (2019).

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