Then, when Austin and his team analyzed snapshots of the recordings, they noticed differences in the brain during active and restful sleep. During active sleep, when babies are more restless, brain regions in the left and right hemispheres seem to work at the same time in the same way. This suggests that new, long connections are forming throughout the brain, Austin said. During restful sleep, it seems that more shorter connections are forming in brain regions.
It’s not clear why this is happening, but Austin has a theory. He argues that active sleep is more important in preparing the brain to construct conscious experience more broadly—to recognize the other person as a person rather than a series of blobs and objects. array of colors and textures for example. Different brain regions need to work together to achieve this.
“Short connections made during quiet sleep may be regulating how individual brain regions function: “In active sleep, you are building a picture, and in sleep you are building a picture,” says Austin. quiet sleep [you’re] tweak everything.
The more we know about how a healthy infant brain works, the better equipped we can be to help babies born prematurely or with brain damage early in life. Austin also hopes to learn more about the effects of each stage of sleep on the brain. For example, once we have a better understanding of what the brain is doing, we can figure out the safest time to wake a nursing baby.
Austin envisions some kind of traffic light system that could be placed near a sleeping baby. A green light can signal that the baby is in a moderate state of sleep and can be awakened. On the other hand, a red light can indicate that it is best to let the baby sleep because the brain is in the midst of some important process.
I tried to do something similar with my kids. The cloud toy in their room turns green and plays a song when it can safely wake Mom up. Cloud is ignored. Unfortunately, once their brains are ready for sanity, they don’t seem to mind that I’m not.
Read more from Tech Review’s archive:
“This kid screams like crazy. The mother is worried. Everything is so stressful.” Rachel Fritts explores how hard it is to study babies’ brains with an fMRI scanner this piece from last year.
The fetus can start hearing muffled sounds from the 20th week of pregnancy. The poor quality of these sounds may be necessary for early brain development, write Anne Trafton.