Neuroscientists at Florida Atlantic University have been studying Mexican cavefish to provide insight into the evolutionary mechanisms regulating sleep loss and the relationship between sensory processing and sleep. They are investigating how sleep evolves and using this species as a model to understand how human brains could evolve to require very little sleep, just like the cavefish.
In their latest study, … published in the Journal of Experimental Biology, findings suggest that an inability to block out your environment is one of the ways to lose sleep.
[T]he evolution of enhanced sensory capabilities contribute to sleep loss in cavefish and … sleep in cavefish is plastic and may be regulated by seasonal changes in food availability.
“Humans block out sensory cues when we enter a sleep-like state,” [said Alex C. Keene, Ph.D., corresponding author of the study.] “For example, we close our eyes and there are mechanisms in the brain to reduce auditory input. This is one of the reasons why a sensory stimuli like someone entering a room is less likely to get your attention if you are asleep. Our thinking was that cavefish have to some degree lost this ability and this drives sleep loss.”
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