The Jellyfish Dream Tonight
September 25, 2017 12:11 PM   Subscribe

Researchers observe sleep-like behavior in jellyfish, a brainless organism. Quote: (T)he revelations about jellyfish sleep are important, he said, because they show how basic sleep is. It appears to be a “conserved” behavior, one that arose relatively early in life’s history and has persisted for millions of years. If the behavior is conserved, then perhaps the biological mechanism is too. Understanding why jellyfish, with their simple nerve nets, need sleep could lead scientists to the function of sleep in humans.
posted by King Sky Prawn (23 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
 
Related article on the importance of sleep for humans.
posted by dhruva at 12:23 PM on September 25 [6 favorites]


In the ocean, the mighty ocean
The jellies sleep tonight
A-weeeeeeeee-ooo-eee-ooo wee-oh mum-ma-weh


(C'mon, everybody!)

A-weemoweh, A-weemoweh
A-weemoweh, A-weemoweh ...

posted by Greg_Ace at 12:26 PM on September 25 [15 favorites]


I'm a physician but won't remotely claim to be any sort of expert in neurobiology, or in the physiology of sleep. To me, the balance of the evidence suggests that there are lots of cellular and even tissue-level housekeeping functions which are incompatible with active participation in the neural network that creates, or simply is, consciousness. So all animals switch the net into a sort of idle mode in order to sweep the place up periodically.
posted by killdevil at 12:49 PM on September 25 [18 favorites]


Related article on the importance of sleep for humans.

Hearing people boast about how chronically sleep-deprived they are, up to some kind of macho "sleep is for the weak!" bullshit, where they construe sleep as something that just reduces your "productivity" for no good reason, kind of enrages me.
posted by thelonius at 1:02 PM on September 25 [16 favorites]


I like this tale. Does a jellyfish sleep? Well, how could we know? What is sleep?
  • Sleep, they decide, is reversible quiescence. Jellyfish zonk out after a hard day of tentacling but they wake up when they smell breakfast. Check.
  • Sleepyheads everywhere exhibit an increased arousal threshold. Jellyfish, when suddenly woken, drift aimlessly when they should be drifting aimfully. Check.
  • Sleepers need to need sleep. Jellyfish are practically useless, even for jellyfish, if you annoy them all night. Check.
So jellyfish sleep, according to this story.

Do they enjoy sleep? Do they dream?
posted by pracowity at 1:22 PM on September 25 [17 favorites]


Aww, I am glad the jellies sleep. I like the jellies*. Cnidarians are awesome.

* except lion’s mane jellyfish because those things are fucking terrifying
posted by Hermione Granger at 1:45 PM on September 25 [3 favorites]


do jellyfish dream of electric eels?
posted by supermedusa at 2:01 PM on September 25 [26 favorites]


I'm waiting for the discovery that the neural nets guiding self-driving cars will end up needing sleep.
posted by clawsoon at 2:02 PM on September 25 [15 favorites]


There's been evidence of memory transmission via non-neural cells in some varieties of meal worms. Maybe we've been thinking about brains all wrong and even more simple animal cells participate in a kind of cognition and base-level consciousness (though possibly not a fully self reflective consciousness). If that were the case, maybe jellyfish could dream in a certain sense. Neat science. Very cool.
posted by saulgoodman at 2:04 PM on September 25 [5 favorites]


Can confirm posting to Mifi while brainless.

(oh wait, should probably not be so public)
posted by sammyo at 2:04 PM on September 25 [2 favorites]


do jellyfish dream of electric eels?
posted by supermedusa at 2:01 PM on September 25


Eponysterical!!
posted by Hermione Granger at 2:06 PM on September 25 [5 favorites]


i had a brief flash of indignant rage that researchers humiliated innocent jellies by calling them brainless

LET THEM NAP
posted by poffin boffin at 2:20 PM on September 25 [6 favorites]


Sternberg, along with Abram and Bedbrook’s advisers, is a co-author on the Current Biology paper.

I know that this is just how biology works, but it bugs me a little.
posted by clawsoon at 2:29 PM on September 25


I would list the jellyfish.
posted by pracowity at 2:35 PM on September 25


i had a brief flash of indignant rage that researchers humiliated innocent jellies by calling them brainless

i have had a decades-long struggle with insomnia that makes me indignant with rage that even the jellyfish get to sack out
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:48 PM on September 25 [10 favorites]


I'm waiting for the discovery that the neural nets guiding self-driving cars will end up needing sleep.

Have you tried turning it off and then on again?
posted by tobascodagama at 3:12 PM on September 25 [9 favorites]


"could lead scientists to the function of sleep in humans."

Uh, I'm pretty sure it's where I'm a Viking?
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:26 PM on September 25 [5 favorites]


BUG REPORTS FROM CREATION


FROM: Ramiel, Tutelary Angel of the Mighty Waters
DATE: 5
TO: Lord God Almighty (blessed by Thy Name)
SUBJECT: Creatures gradually become listless

Lord, Thy creatures swim and frolic in the mighty deeps, but after some hours they start moving sluggishly and fail to respond with alacrity. Turning them off and on again seems to work for a while but we obviously can't release them in this state.

FROM: Lord God Almighty
DATE: 5
TO: Ramiel, Tutelary Angel of the Mighty Waters
SUBJECT: Re: Creatures gradually become undirected and listless

This is a known problem with the alpha release of the autonomous "neural net" OS. Tomorrow's release of the beta version ("notochord++") should fix it. In the meantime, turn the creatures off.

FROM: Ramiel, Tutelary Angel of the Mighty Waters
DATE: 6
TO: Lord God Almighty (blessed by Thy Name)
SUBJECT: URGENT! (was: Re: Creatures gradually become listless)

I turned the creatures back on this morning. The software update hasn't fixed things, and I'm getting similar reports about gradual sluggishness in the new "land creatures" from Barakiel, Tutelary Angel of the Thundering Mountains. We need this fixed ASAP before the new deployment this afternoon.

FROM: Metatron, assistant to the Chief
DATE: 6
TO: Ramiel, Tutelary Angel of the Mighty Waters
SUBJECT: Re: URGENT! (was: Re: Creatures gradually become listless)

The Chief asked me to tell you that the problem seems to have been fixed with the new "cortex" version of the OS. He had one creature walking around for ages naming things and it was fine, so he caused a deep sleep to fall upon it, spun off a clone and left them to it.

FROM: Ramiel, Tutelary Angel of the Mighty Waters
DATE: 6
TO: Metatron, assistant to the Chief
SUBJECT: Re: Re: URGENT! (was: Re: Creatures gradually become listless)

The bug only manifests after about twelve hours so if he rebooted them the problem won't have shown up. Please get the Chief to contact me ASAP because these creatures are not ready for general release.

FROM: Metatron, assistant to the Chief
DATE: 6
TO: Ramiel, Tutelary Angel of the Mighty Waters
SUBJECT: Re: Re: Re: URGENT! (was: Re: Creatures gradually become listless)

The Chief wants a break and told me to hold his calls until the 8th.

FROM: Lord God Almighty
DATE: 8
TO: All
SUBJECT: Good news everybody!

The release of Living Creatures 1.0 has been a huge success. There are still some problems with sleep state and resource consumption but we'll patch those remotely as soon as the next funding cycle comes through. I think we can all be very proud!
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:33 PM on September 25 [49 favorites]


The Chief wants a break and told me to hold his calls until the 8th

Have you tried turning him off and on again?
posted by flabdablet at 10:28 PM on September 25 [3 favorites]


Uh, I'm pretty sure it's where I'm a Viking?

To hell with that, I wanna be "Barakiel, Tutelary Angel of the Thundering Mountains"!!!
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:11 PM on September 25 [4 favorites]


Hermione Granger I did not even think of that!!
posted by supermedusa at 9:29 AM on September 26


i remember reading researchers suggesting that sleep might be connected to the glymphatic system, that during sleep the brain is flushing out various waste products into cerebrospinal fluid. has this gone anywhere? It was stated in a breathless university press release so maybe it's wrong or not well supported.
posted by vogon_poet at 11:05 AM on September 28


My brain just woke me from my quiescent state with this: If plants have behaviour, then the same test could be done on them to see if they sleep.

We're assuming that it's neurons who need their rest, but that's not a necessary conclusion of the jellyfish experiment.

(First plant experiment: Do Venus flytraps catch bugs 24/7?)
posted by clawsoon at 11:26 PM on September 29 [1 favorite]


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