Sleep enhances plasticity in the developing visual cortex

Neuron. 2001 Apr;30(1):275-87. doi: 10.1016/s0896-6273(01)00279-3.


During a critical period of brain development, occluding the vision of one eye causes a rapid remodeling of the visual cortex and its inputs. Sleep has been linked to other processes thought to depend on synaptic remodeling, but a role for sleep in this form of cortical plasticity has not been demonstrated. We found that sleep enhanced the effects of a preceding period of monocular deprivation on visual cortical responses, but wakefulness in complete darkness did not do so. The enhancement of plasticity by sleep was at least as great as that produced by an equal amount of additional deprivation. These findings demonstrate that sleep and sleep loss modify experience-dependent cortical plasticity in vivo. They suggest that sleep in early life may play a crucial role in brain development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Animals
  • Blindness / complications
  • Blindness / pathology
  • Blindness / physiopathology
  • Cats
  • Electroencephalography
  • Female
  • Male
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Sleep / physiology*
  • Sleep, REM / physiology
  • Visual Cortex / cytology
  • Visual Cortex / growth & development*
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*
  • Visual Pathways / cytology
  • Visual Pathways / growth & development*
  • Visual Pathways / physiology*
  • Wakefulness / physiology