I'm interested in modeling human brain spiking activity.

Are there cases in which neural spiking completely ceases in an organism and yet later resumes?

I've considered:

  • hypothermic drowning, but medical reports (e.g., here) on the topic suggest that recording a patients' EEG or other indicators of spiking activity is not a priority when trying to revive a patient.

  • cryptobiosis, but haven't found any relevant studies.

  • $\begingroup$ Why just near death freezing instead of the general question: are there cases where neuronal spiking stops completely and yet later resumes? Further, can you indicate that you have done some initial research on this question? Where have you looked for an answer? $\endgroup$ – Artem Kaznatcheev Mar 28 '12 at 16:50
  • $\begingroup$ @ArtemKaznatcheev Thanks for the suggestions, which I've incorporated into the question. $\endgroup$ – John Pick Mar 28 '12 at 17:53
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ +1 thanks, especially for including the section of what you've considered. $\endgroup$ – Artem Kaznatcheev Mar 28 '12 at 17:56

Your link to Wikipedia's cryptobiosis article mentions that Tardigrades are capable of reducing their metabolic activity to 0.01% of normal levels, and their water content to 1%, a state which they can maintain for up to 10 years. Possessing a considerable nervous system, it is almost certain that Tardigrade neurons are not active at all during that period, especially since neurons are some of the most energy-demanding cells. Some nematodes, which apparently are also cryptobiotic, would be a similar case.

Another relevant context would be hypoxic insults to brain tissue. Hypoxia-induced neurological damage results partly from a cascade of glutamate-release that is caused by diminished ATP production in neurons. According to a study by Bickler and Donohoe (2002), some animal's neurons, in order to preserve ATP levels, are equipped to block action potentials at the onset hypoxic incidents. See the section "Why does the lack of O2 kill typical neurons rapidly?"--they even cite a study that performed EEGs (as you suggested) on anoxic turtles.

Whether it is anything-but-rare for spike trains to be completely inhibited during the course of regular nervous system function is another question, and I wish I knew the answer.

Bickler, P. E., & Donohoe, P. H. (2002). Adaptive responses of vertebrate neurons to hypoxia. Journal of experimental biology, 205(23), 3579-3586. [PDF]

  • $\begingroup$ good answer. Welcome to the site (or to activity on the site :D)! $\endgroup$ – Artem Kaznatcheev Mar 28 '12 at 20:46
  • $\begingroup$ @Artem Thanks Artem :) I look forward to being here. $\endgroup$ – Matt Munson Mar 29 '12 at 4:03
  • $\begingroup$ Your link to 'considerable nervous system' doesn't work for me. Consider updating it in line with our site guidelines as I've demonstrated for the other reference. Great answer! +1 $\endgroup$ – Steven Jeuris Dec 3 '12 at 3:07

When hamsters are cooled sufficiently, their brain electrical activity ceases. When the hamsters are later revived, brain electrical activity resumes.


  • Gerard, R.W. (1953) What is Memory? Scientific American. Sept. 1953:118-126.

Yes, according to MIT scientist Sebastian Seung:

Some victims of drowning in icy water have been resuscitated after being effectively dead for tens of minutes. Even though their hearts had stopped pumping blood, the icy cold prevented permanent brain damage. The lucky ones recovered with little or no memory loss, despite the complete inactivity of their neurons while their brains were chilled.


  • Seung, S. (2012) Connectome: How the Brain's Wiring Makes Us Who We Are. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
  • $\begingroup$ Consider merging this with your other answer instead. However, much thanks for following up on your question! $\endgroup$ – Steven Jeuris Dec 3 '12 at 3:09

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