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Prog Brain Res. 2011;193:221-32. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-444-53839-0.00014-4.

Sleep and developmental plasticity not just for kids.

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Department of Neuroscience, School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA.


In a variety of mammalian species, sleep amounts are highest during developmental periods of rapid brain development and synaptic plasticity than at any other time in life [Frank, M. G. & Heller, H. C. (1997a). Development of REM and slow wave sleep in the rat. American Journal of Physiology, 272, R1792-R1799; Jouvet-Mounier, D., Astic, L., & Lacote, D. (1970). Ontogenesis of the states of sleep in rat, cat and guinea pig during the first postnatal month. Developmental Psychobiology, 2, 216-239; Roffwarg, H. P., Muzio, J. N., & Dement, W. C. (1966). Ontogenetic development of the human sleep-dream cycle. Science, 604-619]. Many of the mechanisms governing developmental plasticity also mediate plasticity in the adult brain. Therefore, studying the role of sleep in developmental plasticity may provide insights more generally into sleep function across the lifespan. In this chapter, I review the evidence that supports a critical role for sleep in developmental brain plasticity. I begin with an overview of past studies that support a role for sleep in general brain maturation. This is followed by more recent findings in the developing visual cortex that more specifically address a possible role for sleep in cortical plasticity.

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