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Physiol Behav. 1988;43(3):339-50.

The sequential hypothesis on sleep function. II. A correlative study between sleep variables and newly synthesized brain DNA.

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Institute of General Biology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Perugia, Italy.


The information acquired by brain during wakefulness (W) may be processed in two sequential steps occurring during synchronized sleep (SS) and paradoxical sleep (PS), respectively. On the assumption that brain molecules synthesized during the acquisition step undergo a comparable sleep processing, we have designed an experiment aimed at the verification of the sequential hypothesis. Groups of adult female Wistar rats received [3H-methyl] thymidine by intraventricular injection 30 min before being exposed to a 4 hr session of a two-way active avoidance training. Animals failing to achieve the learning criterion were further allowed a period of 3 hr during which they were left free to sleep, or were deprived of PS or of total sleep. Control rats were similarly treated, but were left in their home cages in the same training room during the period of acquisition. The results of correlative study among behavioral, sleep and biochemical variables demonstrate that the specific radioactivity of DNA in the cerebral cortex, cerebellum and brainstem is correlated with several variables of postacquisition sleep, mostly SS parameters. The correlations depend on the previous waking experience of the rats. The data substantiate the two main consequences of the hypothesis, i.e., (1) the involvement of SS in brain information processing; and (2) the dependence of the operations performed by the sleeping brain on the nature of the previous waking experience. The results also provide some insight into the kind of processing which occurs in the sleeping brain.

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