We report the effects of permanently separating the immature forebrain from the brain stem upon sleeping and waking development. Kittens ranging from postnatal 9 to 27 days of age sustained a mesencephalic transection and were maintained for up to 135 days. Prior to postnatal day 40, the electroencephalogram of the isolated forebrain and behavioral sleep-wakefulness of the decerebrate animal showed the immature patterns of normal young kittens. Thereafter, the isolated forebrain showed alternating sleep-wakefulness electrocortical rhythms similar to the corresponding normal patterns of intact, mature cats. Olfactory stimuli generally changed forebrain sleeping into waking activity, and in cats with the section behind the third nerve nuclei, normal correlates of eye movements-pupillary activity with electrocortical rhythms were present. Behind the transection, decerebrate animals showed wakefulness, and after 20 days of age displayed typical behavioral episodes of rapid eye movements sleep and, during these periods, the pontine recordings showed ponto-geniculo-occipital waves, which are markers for this sleep stage, together with muscle atonia and rapid lateral eye movements. Typically, but with remarkable exceptions suggesting humoral interactions, the sleep-waking patterns of the isolated forebrain were dissociated from those of the decerebrate animal. These results were very similar to our previous findings in midbrain-transected adult cats. However, subtle differences suggested greater functional plasticity in the developing versus the adult isolated forebrain. We conclude that behavioral and electroencephalographic patterns of non-rapid eye movement sleep and of rapid eye movement sleep states mature independently in the forebrain and the brain stem, respectively, after these structures are separated early postnatally. In terms of waking, the findings strengthen our concept that in higher mammals the rostral brain can independently support wakefulness/arousal and, hypothetically, perhaps even awareness. Therefore, these basic sleeping-waking functions are intrinsic properties of the forebrain/brain stem and as such can develop autochthonously. These data help our understanding of some normal/borderline sleep-waking dissociations as well as peculiar states of consciousness in long term patients with brain stem lesions.