The suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) exhibits circadian rhythmicity in fetal and infant rats, but little is known about the consequences of this rhythmicity for infant behavior. Here, in Experiment 1, we measured sleep and wakefulness in rats during the day and night in postnatal day (P)2, P8, P15 and P21 subjects. As early as P2, day-night differences in sleep-wake activity were detected. Nocturnal wakefulness began to emerge around P15 and was reliably expressed by P21. We hypothesized that the process of photic entrainment over the first postnatal week, which depends upon the development of connectivity between the retinohypothalamic tract (RHT) and the SCN, influences the later emergence of nocturnal wakefulness. To test this hypothesis, in Experiment 2 infant rats were enucleated bilaterally at P3 and P11, that is, before and after photic entrainment. Whereas pups enucleated at P11 and tested at P21 exhibited increased wakefulness at night, identical to sham controls, pups enucleated at P3 and tested at P21 exhibited the opposite pattern of increased wakefulness during the day. Pups tested at P28 and P35 exhibited this same pattern of increased daytime wakefulness. All together, these results suggest that prenatal and postnatal experience modulates the development of species-typical circadian sleep-wake patterns. Moreover, we suggest that visual system stimulation, via the RHT’s connections with the SCN, exerts an organizational influence on the developing circadian system and, consequently, contributes to the emergence of nocturnality in this species.
Repository citation: Gall, Andrew J.; Todd, William D.; Ray, Baisali; Coleman, Cassandra M.; and Blumberg, Mark S., "The Development of Day-night Differences in Sleep and Wakefulness in Norway Rats and the Effect of Bilateral Enucleation" (2008). Faculty Publications. Paper 1504.
Published in: Journal of Biological Rhythms, Volume 23, Issue 3, June 1, 2008, pages 232-241. Copyright © 2008 SAGE.