Sleep-dependent learning in dogs

Sleep-dependent learning in dogs

Interest in the dog brain has been growing considerably since brain scans provided first glimpses from inside the head of man’s best friend. However, many presumably fundamental principles of brain function, known from work with other species, are yet to be confirmed and properly characterized. Researchers at the Eötvös Loránd University and Hungarian Academy of Sciences in Budapest, Hungary, were now able to show that in dogs sleep-dependent learning is aided by oscillations analogous of ’sleep spindles’.

The name ’spindle’ refers to their appearance, a train of rhythmic waves, rising and falling in amplitude as they unfold on the EEG recording screen. Sleep spindles mostly show during the so called ’slow wave’ sleep and were long known to support memory and sleep-stability in humans and rats. Their role in the dog, however, was never studied and different ideas about the characteristics of dogs’ spindles compete in the literature.

Analyzing EEG data from a learning-experiment, the scientists found that sleep spindles in dogs are more similar to the human variant than previously thought and are similarly associated with learning. They also reveal sex differences characterized, as in humans, by more spindles and increased learning in females.

The study was published in the open access Scientific Reports from the publishers of Nature: