Ground Squirrels Destroy and Rebuild Their Brains Every Fortnight

Scientists have found that squirrels can destroy and re-grow their brains during hibernation.
Jessica Miley

Many animals hibernate during the winter. This behavior of sleeping underground during the cold winter months can be observed in animals of all sizes from rats to large bears. 

Another animal species that indulges in a long winter sleep is ground squirrels. Unlike other hibernating animals, the squirrels don’t sleep for the whole winter rather they set up their hibernation in cycles. 

Squirrels go underground for 2-3 weeks before waking themselves up for 24 hours before doing it all again. Scientists in Russia observed this behavior and decided to take a look at what was happening inside the squirrel's brain during this time. 

What they found was very surprising. It seems that when a ground squirrel heads underground it first slows its metabolism and lets its core body temperature drop too close to zero degrees. 

As this happens's, the squirrel's brain actually partially disintegrates, that is, scientists discovered that these sleeping squirrels have significant shorter and less branching brain dendrites than active squirrels. 

What is even more astonishing is that upon waking up for its 24 hours of rebooting, the squirrel is actually able to regrow its brain structure to a level above a regular active squirrel. This destruction and regrowth have stumped scientists. But the further study may not only unlock this secret but could also help with the treatment of humans with brain injuries.