Uranium is a heavy metal known to induce toxicity in kidneys. It is also known to enter the central nervous system, thus inducing neurophysiological effects, after exposure to relatively high concentrations. The effect of chronic uranium exposure (40 mg l(-1) in drinking water, for 90 days) on electroencephalographic architecture has been studied on freely moving rats using a telemetry technique. The main effects of uranium on the sleep-wake cycle were an increase in rapid eye movement sleep (REM-sleep) and theta band power during the light period, as early as Day 30 after exposure commenced. The most probable explanation for these effects is that uranium directly affects the brain. This increase in REM-sleep was previously described in human depression or models of chronically stressed rats and it may be assimilated with some protective or compensatory mechanisms.