We have previously shown that during the post-natal critical period of development of the cat visual system, 1 week of instrumental rapid eye movement (REM) sleep deprivation (IRSD) during 2 weeks of monocular deprivation (MD) results in significant amplification of the effects of solely the 2-week MD on cell-size in the binocular segment of the lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN) [36,40]. In this study, we examined whether elimination of ponto-geniculo-occipital (PGO)-wave phasic activity in the LGN during REM sleep (REMS), rather than suppression of all REMS state-related activity, would similarly yield enhanced plasticity effects on cell-size in LGN. PGO-activity was eliminated in LGN by bilateral pontomesencephalic lesions [8,32]. This method of removing phasic activation at the level of the LGN preserved sleep and wake proportions as well as the tonic activities (low voltage, fast frequency ECoG and low amplitude EMG) that characterize REM sleep. The lesions were performed in kittens on post-natal day 42, at the end of the first week of the 2-week period of MD, the same age when IRSD was started in the earlier study. LGN interlaminar cell-size disparity increased in the PGO-wave-suppressed animals as it had in behaviorally REM sleep-deprived animals. Smaller A1/A-interlaminar ratios reflect the increased disparity effect in both the REM sleep- and PGO-suppressed groups compared to animals subjected to MD-alone. With IRSD, the effect was achieved because the occluded eye-related, LGN A1-lamina cells tended to be smaller relative to their size after MD-alone, whereas after PGO-suppressing lesions, the A1-lamina cells retained their size and the non-occluded eye-related, A-lamina cells tended to be larger than after MD-alone. Despite this difference, for which several possible explanations are offered, these A1/A-interlaminar ratio data indicate that in conjunction either with suppression of the whole of the REMS state or selective removal of REM sleep phasic activity at the LGN, altered visual input evokes more LGN cell plasticity during the developmental period than it would otherwise. These data further support involvement of the REM sleep state in reducing susceptibility to plasticity changes and undesirable variability in the course of normative CNS growth and maturation.
Copyright 1999 Elsevier Science B.V.