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A. Sleep Found to be Crucial for Early Brain Development

Narrator: This is Science Today. While there's no doubt about the necessity of sleep, researchers at the University of California, San Francisco have come up with the first direct evidence that sleep in early life may have a vital role in brain development. Neuroscientist Marcos Frank studied young cats and found that sleep dramatically enhanced their brain growth during a period of visual development.

Frank: Cats are ideal because not only is their visual system much like ours, not only do their brains develop much like ours, but they sleep a lot and the development of their sleep patterns is very similar to the development of sleep patterns in human babies.

Narrator: The researchers blocked vision in one eye in two sets of cats. One group slept after this experience, the other group did not. Those that slept developed twice the amount of brain change as those kept awake during the experience.

Frank: So it suggests that there's something going on in sleep that strengthens and enhances the experience that the animal - or you and I - have during a waking period. And this process is disrupted if you don't get sleep.

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.