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It is possible that this pigeon will be able to fly not only in the waking state

Photo: Veena Nair / Getty Images

It's not just people who dream. New findings suggest that pigeons are also capable of this – in an amazingly similar way to us, researchers from Ruhr-Universität Bochum and the Max Planck Institute for Biological Intelligence now report in a study in the journal Nature Communications.

With the help of functional magnetic resonance imaging, the researchers investigated the patterns in the brains of sleeping pigeons. It was found that the brain is largely very active during REM sleep – people's brains are also particularly active during this sleep phase, sleepers experience vivid, bizarre or emotional dreams. According to the researchers, it was previously unclear whether similar processes also take place in birds.

During this phase, the team measured brain activity in areas such as how a pigeon's environment moves during flight, or how it processes nerve signals from the body and wings. "Based on these observations, we suspect that birds, like humans, dream in REM phases, perhaps even experience flight sequences," says Mehdi Behroozi, a neuroscientist at the University of Bochum, in a statement.

In the future, the team would like to find out more about what occupies the animals during sleep. "We hope to train the birds in such a way that they can tell us whether and what they have just seen," says Gianina Ungurean from the Max Planck Institute for Biological Intelligence. According to the researchers, the findings help to better understand the role of sleep in both birds and humans.