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Physiol Behav. 2005 Mar 31;84(4):635-40.

Acute effects of light and darkness on sleep in the pigeon (Columba livia).

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 6001 Research Park Blvd. Madison, WI 53719, USA.


In addition to entraining circadian rhythms, light has acute effects on sleep and wakefulness in mammals. To determine whether light and darkness have similar effects in birds, the only non-mammalian group that displays sleep patterns comparable to mammals, we examined the effects of lighting changes on sleep and wakefulness in the pigeon. We quantified sleep behavior (i.e., bilateral or unilateral eye closure) in pigeons maintained under a 12:12 LD cycle, and immediately following a change from a 12:12 to a 3:3 LD cycle. During both LD cycles, sleep was most prevalent during dark periods. During the 3:3 LD cycle, darkness had the greatest sleep promoting effect during the hours corresponding to the subjective night of the preceding 12:12 LD cycle, whereas light suppressed sleep across circadian phases. As previously suggested, the light-induced decrease in sleep in the subjective night might be partly mediated by the suppression of melatonin by light. Although the sleep promoting effect of darkness was modulated by the circadian rhythm, sleep in darkness occurred during all circadian phases, suggesting that darkness per se may play a direct role in inducing sleep. In addition to the effects of lighting on behavioral state, we observed an overall bias toward more right eye closure under all lighting conditions, possibly reflecting a response to the novel testing environment.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

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