Neuroscience Bulletin

, Volume 28, Issue 1, pp 25–38 | Cite as

No phylogeny without ontogeny — a comparative and developmental search for the sources of sleep-like neural and behavioral rhythms



A comprehensive review is presented of reported aspects and putative mechanisms of sleep-like motility rhythms throughout the animal kingdom. It is proposed that ‘rapid eye movement (REM) sleep’ be regarded as a special case of a distinct but much broader category of behavior, ‘rapid body movement (RBM) sleep’, defined by intrinsically-generated and apparently non-purposive movements. Such a classification completes a 2 × 2 matrix defined by the axes sleep versus waking and active versus quiet. Although ‘paradoxical’ arousal of forebrain electrical activity is restricted to warm-blooded vertebrates, we urge that juvenile or even infantile stages of development be investigated in cold-blooded animals, in view of the many reports of REM-like spontaneous motility (RBMs) in a wide range of species during sleep. The neurophysiological bases for motorically active sleep at the brainstem level and for slow-wave sleep in the forebrain appear to be remarkably similar, and to be subserved in both cases by a primitive diffuse mode of neuronal organization. Thus, the spontaneous synchronous burst discharges which are characteristics of the sleeping brain can be readily simulated even by highly unstructured neural network models. Neuromotor discharges during active sleep appear to reflect a hierarchy of simple relaxation oscillation mechanisms, spanning a wide range of spike-dependent relaxation times, whereas the periodic alternation of active and quiet sleep states more likely results from the entrainment of intrinsic cellular rhythms and/or from activity-dependent homeostatic changes in network excitability.


sleep cortical arousal development evolution neural network models brain rhythms spontaneous motility neuroplasticity 


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© Shanghai Institutes for Biological Sciences, CAS and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Netherlands Institute for Brain ResearchAmsterdamThe Netherlands
  2. 2.The Netherlands Institute for NeurosciencesAmsterdamThe Netherlands

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