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Free Content Sleep during arousal episodes as a function of prior torpor duration in hibernating European ground squirrels

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EEG's were recorded in hibernating European ground squirrels during euthermic arousal episodes at an ambient temperature of 5.5°C. Spontaneous torpor bouts ranged from 6 to 15 days, body temperature during torpor was 7.5°C. The torpor duration prior to EEG measurements was experimentally manipulated: the animals were induced to arouse by gentle handling after torpor of less then 1 day (n=3), 1–2 days (n=6), 3–4 days (n=9) and 5–12 days (n=9). The animals slept 71.5% of euthermic time, of which 61.4% NREM and 10.2% REM sleep. NREM percentage was slightly positively and REM percentage negatively correlated with prior torpor duration (TD). Spectral analysis showed changes in EEG activity during the euthermic phase in the slow wave frequency range (1–4 Hz) and in higher frequencies. Prior TD specifically affected the slow waves. Slow wave activity decreased exponentially during the euthermic phase. The initial slow wave activity showed a systematic increase with prior TD, which could be described by an exponentially saturating function, albeit with a relatively small time constant compared with spontaneous torpor duration. It is concluded that sleep during arousal episodes following torpor at an ambient temperature of 5.5°C is affected both in structure and intensity by prior TD. The results are consistent with the proposition that torpor inhibits the restorative function of sleep.
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Keywords: ground squirrel; hibernation; periodic arousal episode; sleep; spectral analysis; torpor

Document Type: Original Article

Affiliations: Zoological Laboratory, BCN, University of Groningen, Haren, The Netherlands

Publication date: January 1, 1997

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