— Prologue —
Life is circular. There is always a start — Birth, and there is always an end — Death. In between there are other circular activities, such as breathing for example, which is common to all life forms, from bacteria to palm trees, and from tiny worms to human beings. Finally, there is sleep, which is unique to a certain group of multicellular eukaryotic organisms — i.e. Animals.
Sleep is a recurring activity, usually occurring within a circadian (“of 24 hours”) rhythm. As humans, we know we get tired at night, lie down, close our eyes, stop moving, relax… and sleep. When asleep, we all enter alternating states of consciousness. We lose track of time and become rather indifferent to outer stimuli. Dreams may appear and go. And we may or may not remember them in the morning. Whatever the experience is for each individual, each night, our brain is a primary player in this phenomenon. By altering its own electrical patterns — what is known as Brain Waves — it controls behavior, alertness, and memory.
Simple observations tell us that animals sleep as well. We see our dogs and cats lie down, stationary, while their shut eyelids are rapidly twitching from side to side as they dream (about us perhaps). However, scientific research provides the evidence that simpler forms of animals, such as flies and worms, sleep as well — even if “sleep” is manifested differently with these species.
As technology advances more and more, we now have methods of controlling human brain waves, as a way to induce hypnosis-like states in patients or to facilitate concentration in people suffering from ADD. These machines work primarily via sound and light, although future versions could operate on the premise of magnetic waves. There is already an experimental method used in psychiatric hospitals, called Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), which remotely affects a person’s brain patterns.
On the exciting applications of TMS (and other futuristic methods of brain-wave manipulation) on animals, come back for next week’s issue of… Future Nature.
TMS Picture by Revolution Health