Posted by & filed under Consciousness, Neuroscience.

Description: Start by watching the amazing video linked below. It is of a sleeping octopus and the twitches and dramatic color changes it is displaying seem to suggest that it is dreaming. But, before you start speculating as to what the octopus is dreaming about, consider this question. Do we know enough about octopi brains to know that they dream in any way that is similar to how we dream? And what about other animals (like Bizkit the sleeping dream running dog for example)? After you have pondered those questions for a moment have a read through the article linked below to see what researchers who study octopi have to say.

Source: Was Heidi the Octopus Really Dreaming? Elizabeth Preston, The New York Times.

Date: October 8, 2019

Photo Credit: Nature, PBS,

Article Links:

So, the article is NOT saying the octopus is not dreaming but what it is saying is that we are not sure that we know enough about how the brains of octopi are organized and how they function to say for sure one way or another. Even when we are aware of the importance of not making anthropometric attributions (assuming that other species do things like dream as we do) it is hard to stop ourselves from the jumping from the observation that the octopus is sleeping and twitching and changing colors to the conclusion that it must be dreaming. So, once again, more research is needed but it IS a cool video to watch either way!

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What is anthropomorphism?
  2. IF the octopus IS dreaming, what might the purpose of the dreaming state be for the octopus?
  3. What evidence do researchers look for when they are investigating whether another species like birds, for example, might be dreaming while they are asleep?

References (Read Further):

Low, P. S., Shank, S. S., Sejnowski, T. J., & Margoliash, D. (2008). Mammalian-like features of sleep structure in zebra finches. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 105(26), 9081-9086.,5&scillfp=16197991748311732752&oi=lle

Dave, A. S., & Margoliash, D. (2000). Song replay during sleep and computational rules for sensorimotor vocal learning. Science, 290(5492), 812-816.

Iglesias, T. L., Boal, J. G., Frank, M. G., Zeil, J., & Hanlon, R. T. (2019). Cyclic nature of the REM sleep-like state in the cuttlefish Sepia officinalis. Journal of Experimental Biology, 222(1), jeb174862.,5&scillfp=3116931802411406788&oi=lle

Bizkit the sleep running dog

Pace-Schott, E. F. (2005). The neurobiology of dreaming. Principles and practice of sleep medicine, 5, 563-75.