The Science Daily has released an interesting article on why diving marine mammals resist brain damage.
Freedivers know that humans can only stay underwater for a few minutes until those required gulps of air are needed. Human brains need a constant supply of oxygen, particularly during a dynamic apnea session or dive.
The article writes that Weddell seals, animals that dive and hunt under the Antarctic sea ice. They hold their breath for as long as 90 minutes, and remain active and mentally alert the whole time. The seals aren’t fazed at all by low levels of oxygen that would cause humans to black out.
The secret is that certain animals, including dolphins, whales and sea otters appear to be protected by elevated levels of oxygen-carrying proteins in their brain. A team from The University of California, Santa Cruz, led by Terrie Williams, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, have measured and compared the amounts of these complex oxygen-carrying proteins in the cerebral cortex of 16 different mammalian species. Dr Williams believes that the discovery could have important implications for understanding stroke and aging in humans.
Read this link for the full report.