Superior Brains


Naked mole rats are proving valuable in battling brain diseases like strokes. These fleshy, hairless creatures are native to African deserts where colonies of up to 300 rats are couped up in underground burrows; oxygen is a luxury for them.

The air they breathe is mostly foul and could lead to irreversible brain damage. Yet their brains were found to withstand the deficit for periods exceeding half an hour—impossible for other mammals. Mammals can survive an oxygen-deficient environment only in the womb. The mole rats are an exception as they retain the ability even in their adulthood. The next step is to learn how their brains do it.


Down to Earth , January 2010