Local sleep homeostasis in the avian brain: convergence of sleep function in mammals and birds? Academic Article uri icon


  • The function of the brain activity that defines slow wave sleep (SWS) and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep in mammals is unknown. During SWS, the level of electroencephalogram slow wave activity (SWA or 0.5-4.5 Hz power density) increases and decreases as a function of prior time spent awake and asleep, respectively. Such dynamics occur in response to waking brain use, as SWA increases locally in brain regions used more extensively during prior wakefulness. Thus, SWA is thought to reflect homeostatically regulated processes potentially tied to maintaining optimal brain functioning. Interestingly, birds also engage in SWS and REM sleep, a similarity that arose via convergent evolution, as sleeping reptiles and amphibians do not show similar brain activity. Although birds deprived of sleep show global increases in SWA during subsequent sleep, it is unclear whether avian sleep is likewise regulated locally. Here, we provide, to our knowledge, the first electrophysiological evidence for local sleep homeostasis in the avian brain. After staying awake watching David Attenborough's The Life of Birds with only one eye, SWA and the slope of slow waves (a purported marker of synaptic strength) increased only in the hyperpallium--a primary visual processing region--neurologically connected to the stimulated eye. Asymmetries were specific to the hyperpallium, as the non-visual mesopallium showed a symmetric increase in SWA and wave slope. Thus, hypotheses for the function of mammalian SWS that rely on local sleep homeostasis may apply also to birds.


  • Lesku, John A
  • Vyssotski, Alexei L
  • Martinez-Gonzalez, Dolores
  • Wilzeck, Christiane
  • Rattenborg, Niels C

publication date

  • August 22, 2011