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Research  Elephants have names for each other + Up all night? You may have actually been asleep

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Elephants have names for each other like people do, new study shows

INTRO: Colorado State University scientists have called elephants by their names, and the elephants called back. 

Wild African elephants address each other with name-like calls, a rare ability among nonhuman animals, according to a new study published in Nature Ecology and Evolution.

Researchers from CSU, Save the Elephants and ElephantVoices used machine learning to confirm that elephant calls contained a name-like component identifying the intended recipient, a behavior they suspected based on observation. When the researchers played back recorded calls, elephants responded affirmatively to calls that were addressed to them by calling back or approaching the speaker. Calls meant for other elephants received less of a reaction.

“Dolphins and parrots call one another by 'name' by imitating the signature call of the addressee,” said lead author Michael Pardo, who conducted the study as an NSF postdoctoral researcher at CSU and Save the Elephants, a research and conservation organization based in Kenya. “By contrast, our data suggest that elephants do not rely on imitation of the receiver's calls to address one another, which is more similar to the way in which human names work.” 

The ability to learn to produce new sounds is uncommon among animals but necessary for identifying individuals by name. Arbitrary communication – where a sound represents an idea but does not imitate it – greatly expands communication capability and is considered a next-level cognitive skill.

"If all we could do was make noises that sounded like what we were talking about, it would vastly limit our ability to communicate,” said co-author George Wittemyer, a professor in CSU’s Warner College of Natural Resources and chairman of the scientific board of Save the Elephants.

Wittemyer said that the use of arbitrary vocal labels indicates that elephants may be capable of abstract thought... (MORE - details, no ads)

Up all night? You may have actually been asleep

EXCERPT: . . .What you have has been called subjective insomnia, paradoxical insomnia or sleep misperception. Scientists have doggedly attacked this stubborn puzzle for decades without result—until now. Now they say that you have not been misrepresenting your sleep; they have been mismeasuring it.

The most recent studies, using far more enhanced measurement, have found that many people with subjective insomnia show different brain activity from good sleepers—throughout the night. Neuroscientist Aurélie Stephan and colleagues at the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience (NIN) realized that something unusual was going on after they asked people in their study to put onto their head a net of 256 electrodes rather than the typical six to 20 used in sleep clinics. In one series of experiments, the researchers woke sleepers about 26 times on average during the night. The participants were asked whether they’d been asleep or awake and what they’d been thinking about.

The most remarkable finding, Stephan says, is that these people showed pockets of arousal in the form of fast brain waves during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. REM is the stage in normal sleep when your brain should completely disconnect from the systems that keep you aware and vigilant, Stephan says.

People with subjective insomnia with this interrupted REM do not experience their sleep as restful. When wakened, they reported having had thoughts similar to those when awake—adding lettuce to their shopping list, say, or reminding themselves to call their cousin. They were less likely to have what University of Montreal neuroscientist Claudia Picard-Deland calls immersive dreams, in which you feel physically present in the dream world and are fleeing down a dark hallway, feeling the hardness of the floor or battling a dragon, sensing its hot breath.

In a study of normal sleepers Picard-Deland recently presented at the the Cognitive Neuroscience Society’s annual meeting, participants said they felt most deeply asleep during immersive dreams, which occurred in the REM stage. People with interrupted REM, as Stephan’s research shows, do not report immersive dreams. They do not feel they’ve slept deeply, and they report fatigue similar to that of people who actually sleep very little.

Perhaps even more important, says NIN sleep scientist Eus van Someren, interrupted REM is strongly linked to disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and anxiety. If two people experience the same level of trauma, a good sleeper is probably less likely to develop PTSD than someone with disturbed sleep, he says. Those with disturbed sleep are therefore more vulnerable to developing PTSD. It’s a vicious cycle... (MORE - missing details)

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