Behavioural effects of dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO): changes in sleep architecture in rats

Toxicol Lett. 2005 Jul 4;157(3):221-32. doi: 10.1016/j.toxlet.2005.02.003. Epub 2005 Apr 15.


Dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) is an efficient solvent for water-insoluble compounds, widely used in biological studies and as a vehicle for drug therapy, but few data on its neurotoxic or behavioural effects is available. The aim of this work is to explore DMSO's effects upon sleep/wake states. Twenty male rats were sterotaxically prepared for polysomnography. Four concentrations of DMSO (5%, 10%, 15%, and 20%, in saline) were examined. DMSO or saline were administered intraperitoneally at the beginning of the light period. Three hours of polygraphic recording were evaluated for stages of vigilance after treatment. Sleep/wake parameters and EEG power spectral analyses during sleep were investigated. Results show no significant effect after 5% or 10% DMSO treatment. DMSO 15% increased mean episode duration of light slow wave sleep (SWS), decreasing mean episode duration of deep SWS and of quiet wake (QW). DMSO 20% increased light SWS enhancing number of episodes, while decreased deep SWS mean episode duration. EEG power spectra of sigma and delta activity were also affected by DMSO. Therefore, DMSO at 15% and 20% affects sleep architecture in rats, increasing light SWS and reducing deep SWS. Being aware of DMSO behavioural effects seems important since experimental artefacts caused by DMSO can lead to the erroneous interpretation of results.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dimethyl Sulfoxide / pharmacology*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Electroencephalography
  • Male
  • Polysomnography
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Sleep / drug effects*
  • Solvents
  • Wakefulness / drug effects


  • Solvents
  • Dimethyl Sulfoxide