Previous studies have demonstrated that macromolecular synthesis in the brain is modulated in association with the occurrence of sleep and wakefulness. Similarly, the spectral composition of electroencephalographic activity that occurs during sleep is dependent on the duration of prior wakefulness. Since this homeostatic relationship between wake and sleep is highly conserved across mammalian species, genes that are truly involved in the electroencephalographic response to sleep deprivation might be expected to be conserved across mammalian species. Therefore, in the rat cerebral cortex, we have studied the effects of sleep deprivation on the expression of immediate early gene and heat shock protein mRNAs previously shown to be upregulated in the mouse brain in sleep deprivation and in recovery sleep after sleep deprivation. We find that the molecular response to sleep deprivation and recovery sleep in the brain is highly conserved between these two mammalian species, at least in terms of expression of immediate early gene and heat shock protein family members. Using Affymetrix Neurobiology U34 GeneChips , we also screened the rat cerebral cortex, basal forebrain, and hypothalamus for other genes whose expression may be modulated by sleep deprivation or recovery sleep. We find that the response of the basal forebrain to sleep deprivation is more similar to that of the cerebral cortex than to the hypothalamus. Together, these results suggest that sleep-dependent changes in gene expression in the cerebral cortex are similar across rodent species and therefore may underlie sleep history-dependent changes in sleep electroencephalographic activity.