Pigeons Dreams

Ever dream of flying?


This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.


During sleep, our brains alternate through dream AND non-dream states. But does this happen in other species as well? 


Gianina Ungurean and team from Ruhr University Bochum explored this – in PIGEONS! 


The team monitored sleeping pigeons via infrared cameras and MRI scanners. They observed eye movement, pupil dilation, and brain activity. They also compared brain fluid movement during dream versus non-dream sleep. 


Results? Pigeons have similar brain activity when dreaming as they do when flying.  Meaning, pigeons may dream of FLYING! While the pigeons dreamt, brain blood flow decreased dramatically. Usually more blood flow removes waste buildup. But the researchers propose that alternating low to high flow may help flush waste products from the brain. 


Their findings help provide more information about sleep and dreams in both pigeons and people. They highlight the importance of dreaming for removing waste products to maintain a healthy brain. 


Talk about bird brained! 

Reference (APA-style)

Ungurean, G., Behroozi, M., Böger, L., Helluy, X., Libourel, P.-A., Güntürkün, O., & Rattenborg, N. C. (2023). Wide-spread brain activation and reduced CSF flow during avian REM sleep. Nature Communications, 14(1). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-023-38669-1