Effects of experimental suppression of active (REM) sleep during early development upon adult brain and behavior in the rat

Brain Res. 1983 Apr;283(2-3):277-86. doi: 10.1016/0165-3806(83)90184-0.


In order to test the hypothesis that active sleep (AS) is important for the normal development of the central nervous system, 3 different deprivation methods were applied to male Wistar rat pups during the first month of life. Daily injection of clomipramine from 8 to 21 days of age reduced the high level of AS to less than the adult value throughout most of the experimental period. Administration of clonidine from 8 to 21 days of life induced an almost total suppression of AS. Instrumental deprivation, using the 'pendulum' method, led to a significant (but less severe) AS reduction during 2-4 weeks of postnatal age. Open-field behavior testing in adulthood revealed a higher than normal level of ambulation in all 3 experimental groups. Masculine sexual responses were deficient, due to a low level of both mounts and ejaculations, in both clomipramine- and clonidine-treated animals. Neither passive avoidance learning nor dark preference tests revealed any differences between the experimental and control rats. Sleep observations showed that there was an abnormally high incidence of large myoclonic jerks during AS in both clomipramine- and clonidine-treated rats. Subsequent measurement of regional brain weights showed a significant reduction in the cerebral cortex and medulla oblongata, as compared with the respective control groups, in both the clomipramine- and the clonidine-treated rats. In addition, DNA and protein determination in the affected brain areas showed a proportional reduction in the cortex and in the medulla. These results demonstrate that interference with normal functioning either of AS per se or of specific monoaminergic transmitter systems during early development can produce long-lasting behavioral as well as brain morphological and biochemical abnormalities in later life.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Avoidance Learning / physiology
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Brain / cytology*
  • Cell Differentiation* / drug effects
  • Clomipramine / pharmacology
  • Clonidine / pharmacology
  • DNA / metabolism
  • Discrimination Learning / physiology
  • Male
  • Motor Activity / physiology
  • Norepinephrine / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Sleep Deprivation*
  • Sleep, REM / drug effects
  • Sleep, REM / physiology*


  • DNA
  • Clonidine
  • Clomipramine
  • Norepinephrine