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Behav Neurosci. 2004 Dec;118(6):1262-73.

Sleep responses to light and dark are shaped by early experience.

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  • 1Neuroscience Training Program, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI, USA.


Light regulates sleep timing through circadian entrapment and by eliciting acute changes in behavior. These behaviors are mediated by the subcortical visual system, retinorecipient nuclei distinct from the geniculocortical system. To test the hypothesis that early visual experience shapes light regulation of behavior, the authors recorded sleep in albino rats reared in continuous dark, continuous light, or a 12-hr light-dark cycle. Dark rearing strengthened and light rearing weakened acute responses to light, including light modulation of REM sleep, a marker for pretectal function in albino rats. However, neither dark nor light rearing altered daily amounts of wakefulness, non-REM sleep, or REM sleep. Thus, light and dark rearing might differentially affect the balance between acute and circadian responses to light that, in concert, govern sleep timing.

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