I sleep all winter to wake up in the spring when life boils again. Hibernation is a state that some animal species go into to conserve their energy. People are not capable of this. However, it may be useful to allow space travelers to continue their exploration of the solar system. Study published in the journal Nature Metabolism gives rise to hope. Scientists have indeed managed to induce hibernation in mice using ultrasound.

Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis, USA, directed ultrasonic pulses at the rodent brain, especially the preoptic area, a small area that “be able to analyze the functional state of the body to induce sleep before fatigue becomes too strong”, explains McGill University (Canada).

The effect was almost instantaneous. “After just ten seconds, the mice’s heart rate slowed, oxygen consumption decreased, metabolism began to consume fat instead of sugar, and body temperature changed, indicating active heat loss.” lists IFLScience. The metabolic and physiological upheavals characteristic of natural torpor, a state similar to hibernation, continues the Science News website.

However, the effect of this artificial stupor did not exceed a few hours. After several modifications, scientists managed to extend hibernation to a day. “without causing discomfort or damage”, accurate IFLScience. The researchers then repeated the experiment on rats.

It is not known if these results can be transferred to our species. But knowing that ultrasound can regulate the activity of neurons in humans, “ultrasonic hibernation [pourrait] lead to applications ranging from new therapies to long-duration manned flights.”