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STUDY OBJECTIVES: Though melatonin and melatonin receptor agonists are in clinical use and under development for treating insomnia, the role of endogenous melatonin in the regulation of the sleep-wake cycle remains uncertain. Some clinical case reports suggest that reduced nocturnal melatonin secretion is linked to sleep disruption, but pineal-gland removal in experimental animals has given variable results. DESIGN: The present study examined the effects of pinealectomy on the diurnal sleep-wake cycle of rats implanted with a radiotransmitter to allow continuous measurement of cortical electroencephalogram, electromyogram, and core temperature (Tc) without restraint in their home cages. MEASUREMENTS AND RESULTS: Tc was slightly (0.2 degrees C) but significantly lower after pineal removal. The total amount and diurnal distribution of locomotor activity, wake, non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep, and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep were unaltered in pinealectomized rats compared to sham-operated controls. Sleep consolidation measured by determining wake, NREM sleep, and REM sleep bout length and frequency was also unchanged. The EEG power spectrum during NREM sleep was unchanged, but a significant decrease in theta power (5-8 Hz) during REM sleep episodes was found. CONCLUSIONS: Our data provide no evidence that endogenous circulating melatonin plays a role in regulating the sleep-wake cycle in rats. However, because cortical theta oscillations are generated in the CA1-3 layer of the hippocampus, neurons known to express melatonin receptors, this suggests that a lack of melatonin following pineal removal influences the function of these neurons and is consistent with previous work suggesting that endogenous melatonin is an important regulator of hippocampal physiology.




Publication Date





833 - 840


Animals, Behavior, Animal, Body Temperature, Central Nervous System Depressants, Creatinine, Electroencephalography, Electromyography, Male, Melatonin, Pineal Gland, Radioimmunoassay, Rats, Rats, Sprague-Dawley, Sleep, Sleep Stages, Wakefulness