Rats love crawling through out the world so it should be no surprise that they dream about the places they want to see and be. Researchers from University College of London conducted a research where they withheld food from the rats they could see, and found out that the rats dreamt of how they can get it.
Lead researcher Hugo Spiers compared it to how a person who goes through a travel brochure of Greece and then ends up dreaming about the pictures seen.
The team discovered this activity when they placed four rats at the bottom of a T-shaped pathway, where the rats could see the food but couldn’t get it to it.
Then they were prompted to fall asleep in a nest where their brain activity was being monitored with 50 electrodes whilst they slept.
When they woke up and were put back in the maze they immediately ran along the T-shape, which had been blocked, and got to the food. This showed that they were thinking of ways to get to the food while they slept.
“Place cells” in both rats and humans help us store memories about location and form mental maps. When you’re in one spot, a set of place cells fires; when you move to another spot, a different set of place cells fire to mark the new location. If scientists can record the activity of specific brain cells, then, they can spy on how the mind maps new places. So far, that kind of recording requires implanting tiny electrodes on very thin wires into the brain, which can’t be done with human subjects for ethical reasons, but it’s possible with rats, reported Discover Magazine.
Researchers aren’t sure yet whether this mental mapping is related to dreams or a different mental process. “People have talked in the past about these kind of replay and pre-play events as possibly being the substrates of dreams, but you can’t ask rats what they’re thinking or dreaming,” said Spiers. But he added, “There is that really interesting sense that we’re getting at the stuff of dreams, the stuff that goes on when you’re sleeping.”
Researchers have previously been able to get in and alter the dreams of mice, making them head for a certain place when they wake up.