The union of the state: myoclonic twitching is coupled with nuchal muscle atonia in infant rats

Behav Neurosci. 2002 Oct;116(5):912-7. doi: 10.1037//0735-7044.116.5.912.


Active sleep (AS), as measured by the occurrence of myoclonic twitching (MT), is the most prevalent behavioral state in newborn rats. Historically, AS has been considered a developmental precursor of REM sleep, but recently this idea has been questioned. In the present study, the authors assess, in 2-, 5-, and 8-day-old rats, the relationship between MT and nuchal muscle atonia, a widely recognized component of REM sleep. At all ages, muscle atonia preceded MT and persisted until awake behaviors occurred. In addition, muscle tone decreased gradually during transitions from awake behavior to twitching. Thus, MT during infancy occurs against a backdrop of muscle atonia, a result that is consistent with the view that AS is a developmental precursor of REM sleep.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Electromyography
  • Female
  • Male
  • Movement / physiology
  • Muscle Contraction / physiology*
  • Muscle Tonus / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Sleep, REM / physiology*
  • Time Factors
  • Wakefulness / physiology*