Multi-channel recordings reveal age-related differences in the sleep of juvenile and adult zebra finches

Sci Rep. 2023 May 27;13(1):8607. doi: 10.1038/s41598-023-35160-1.


Despite their phylogenetic differences and distinct pallial structures, mammals and birds show similar electroencephalography (EEG) traces during sleep, consisting of distinct rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and slow wave sleep (SWS) stages. Studies in human and a limited number of other mammalian species show that this organization of sleep into interleaving stages undergoes radical changes during lifetime. Do these age-dependent variations in sleep patterns also occur in the avian brain? Does vocal learning have an effect on sleep patterns in birds? To answer these questions, we recorded multi-channel sleep EEG from juvenile and adult zebra finches for several nights. Whereas adults spent more time in SWS and REM sleep, juveniles spent more time in intermediate sleep (IS). The amount of IS was significantly larger in male juveniles engaged in vocal learning compared to female juveniles, which suggests that IS could be important for vocal learning. In addition, we observed that functional connectivity increased rapidly during maturation of young juveniles, and was stable or declined at older ages. Synchronous activity during sleep was larger for recording sites in the left hemisphere for both juveniles and adults, and generally intra-hemispheric synchrony was larger than inter-hemispheric synchrony during sleep. A graph theory analysis revealed that in adults, highly correlated EEG activity tended to be distributed across fewer networks that were spread across a wider area of the brain, whereas in juveniles, highly correlated EEG activity was distributed across more numerous, albeit smaller, networks in the brain. Overall, our results reveal that significant changes occur in the neural signatures of sleep during maturation in an avian brain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Electroencephalography
  • Female
  • Finches*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mammals
  • Phylogeny
  • Sleep
  • Sleep, REM
  • Sleep, Slow-Wave*