Are these spiders dreaming? REM-like sleep exhibited in arachnids

New research suggests jumping spiders have sleep cycles similar to those of humans, which could help us better understand why we dream.

Daniela Rößler at the University of Konstanz in Germany and her colleagues trained cameras on baby jumping spiders at night. Their footage shows patterns in the spiders’ movements that indicate they have a similar sleep cycle to humans. “What we found is that jumping spiders seem to be exhibiting something like an REM sleep-like state, which means that they have little bursts of activity throughout the night”, says Rößler.

In humans, REM (or rapid eye movement) sleep is an active phase when parts of the brain light up with activity, and it is closely linked with dreaming. It is hoped that this new research could pave the way to a better understanding of human sleep. “Finding it in a system with a much less complex brain gives us a lot of opportunities to test some of these hypotheses that we have about our REM sleep in humans, in a system that is much easier to control,” says Rößler.

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