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Concept: Circadian rhythms


Disturbances in the sleep-wake cycle and circadian rhythms are common symptoms of Alzheimer Disease (AD), and they have generally been considered as late consequences of the neurodegenerative processes. Recent evidence demonstrates that sleep-wake and circadian disruption often occur early in the course of the disease and may even precede the development of cognitive symptoms. Furthermore, the sleep-wake cycle appears to regulate levels of the pathogenic amyloid-beta peptide in the brain, and manipulating sleep can influence AD-related pathology in mouse models via multiple mechanisms. Finally, the circadian clock system, which controls the sleep-wake cycle and other diurnal oscillations in mice and humans, may also have a role in the neurodegenerative process. In this review, we examine the current literature related to the mechanisms by which sleep and circadian rhythms might impact AD pathogenesis, and we discuss potential therapeutic strategies targeting these systems for the prevention of AD.

Concepts: Diurnal cycle, Alzheimer's disease, Circadian rhythms, Chronotype, Diurnality, Sleep, Circadian rhythm


Consistent daily rhythms are important to healthy aging according to studies linking disrupted circadian rhythms with negative health impacts. We studied the effects of age and exercise on baseline circadian rhythms and on the circadian system’s ability to respond to the perturbation induced by an 8 h advance of the light:dark (LD) cycle as a test of the system’s robustness. Mice (male, mPer2(luc)/C57BL/6) were studied at one of two ages: 3.5 months (n = 39) and >18 months (n = 72). We examined activity records of these mice under entrained and shifted conditions as well as mPER2::LUC measures ex vivo to assess circadian function in the suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN) and important target organs. Age was associated with reduced running wheel use, fragmentation of activity, and slowed resetting in both behavioral and molecular measures. Furthermore, we observed that for aged mice, the presence of a running wheel altered the amplitude of the spontaneous firing rate rhythm in the SCN in vitro. Following a shift of the LD cycle, both young and aged mice showed a change in rhythmicity properties of the mPER2::LUC oscillation of the SCN in vitro, and aged mice exhibited longer lasting internal desynchrony. Access to a running wheel alleviated some age-related changes in the circadian system. In an additional experiment, we replicated the effect of the running wheel, comparing behavioral and in vitro results from aged mice housed with or without a running wheel (>21 months, n = 8 per group, all examined 4 days after the shift). The impact of voluntary exercise on circadian rhythm properties in an aged animal is a novel finding and has implications for the health of older people living with environmentally induced circadian disruption.

Concepts: Chronobiology, Gerontology, Ageing, Circadian rhythms, Circadian rhythm


Seasonal changes in mammalian physiology and behavior are proximately controlled by the annual variation in day length. Long summer and short winter day lengths markedly alter the amplitude of endogenous circadian rhythms and may affect ultradian oscillations, but the threshold photoperiods for inducing these changes are not known. We assessed the effects of short and intermediate day lengths and changes in reproductive physiology on circadian and ultradian rhythms of locomotor activity in Siberian hamsters. Males were maintained in a long photoperiod from birth (15 h light/day; 15 L) and transferred in adulthood to 1 of 7 experimental photoperiods ranging from 14 L to 9 L. Decreases in circadian rhythm (CR) robustness, mesor and amplitude were evident in photoperiods ≤14 L, as were delays in the timing of CR acrophase and expansion of nocturnal activity duration. Nocturnal ultradian rhythms (URs) were comparably prevalent in all day lengths, but 15 L markedly inhibited the expression of light-phase URs. The period (τ'), amplitude and complexity of URs increased in day lengths ≤13 L. Among hamsters that failed to undergo gonadal regression in short day lengths (nonresponders), τ' of the dark-phase UR was longer than in photoresponsive hamsters; in 13 L the incidence and amplitude of light-phase URs were greater in hamsters that did not undergo testicular regression. Day lengths as long as 14 L were sufficient to trigger changes in the waveform of CRs without affecting UR waveform. The transition from a long- to a short-day ultradian phenotype occurred for most UR components at day lengths of 12 L-13 L, thereby establishing different thresholds for CR and UR responses to day length. At the UR-threshold photoperiod of 13 L, differences in gonadal status were largely without effect on most UR parameters.

Concepts: Ultradian, Sleep, Photoperiodism, Cryptochrome, Chronobiology, Circadian rhythms, Circadian rhythm


In spaceflight human circadian rhythms and sleep patterns are likely subject to change, which consequently disturbs human physiology, cognitive abilities and performance efficiency. However, the influence of microgravity on sleep and circadian clock as well as the underlying mechanisms remain largely unknown. Placing volunteers in a prone position, whereby their heads rest at an angle of -6° below horizontal, mimics the microgravity environment in orbital flight. Such positioning is termed head-down bed rest (HDBR). In this work, we analysed the influence of a 45-day HDBR on physiological diurnal rhythms. We examined urinary electrolyte and hormone excretion, and the results show a dramatic elevation of cortisol levels during HDBR and recovery. Increased diuresis, melatonin and testosterone were observed at certain periods during HDBR. In addition, we investigated the changes in urination and defecation frequencies and found that the rhythmicity of urinary frequency during lights-off during and after HDBR was higher than control. The grouped defecation frequency data exhibits rhythmicity before and during HDBR but not after HDBR. Together, these data demonstrate that HDBR can alter a number of physiological processes associated with diurnal rhythms.

Concepts: Delayed sleep phase syndrome, Circadian rhythms, Melatonin, Physiology, Diurnality, Chronotype, Sleep, Circadian rhythm


Although the health burden of shift work has not been extensively studied, evidence suggests that it may affect the metabolic balance and cause obesity and other metabolic disorders. Sleep deprivation, circadian desynchronization and behavioral changes in diet and physical activity are among the most commonly mentioned factors in studies of the association between night work and metabolic disorders. Individual adaptation to night work depends greatly on personal factors such as family and social life, but occupational interventions may also make a positive contribution to the transition to shift work, such as exposure to bright lights during the night shift, melatonin use, shift regularity and clockwise rotation, and dietary adaptations for the metabolic needs of night workers. The evaluation of the impact of night work on health and of the mechanisms underlying this relationship can serve as a basis for intervention strategies to minimize the health burden of shift work. This review aimed to identify highlights regarding therapeutic implications following the association between night and shift work and metabolic disorders, as well as the mechanisms and pathways responsible for these relationships.

Concepts: Obesity, Circadian rhythm, Circadian rhythms, Sleep, Circadian rhythm sleep disorder, Melatonin, Sleep deprivation, Nutrition


The association of irregular sleep schedules with circadian timing and academic performance has not been systematically examined. We studied 61 undergraduates for 30 days using sleep diaries, and quantified sleep regularity using a novel metric, the sleep regularity index (SRI). In the most and least regular quintiles, circadian phase and light exposure were assessed using salivary dim-light melatonin onset (DLMO) and wrist-worn photometry, respectively. DLMO occurred later (00:08 ± 1:54 vs. 21:32 ± 1:48; p < 0.003); the daily sleep propensity rhythm peaked later (06:33 ± 0:19 vs. 04:45 ± 0:11; p < 0.005); and light rhythms had lower amplitude (102 ± 19 lux vs. 179 ± 29 lux; p < 0.005) in Irregular compared to Regular sleepers. A mathematical model of the circadian pacemaker and its response to light was used to demonstrate that Irregular vs. Regular group differences in circadian timing were likely primarily due to their different patterns of light exposure. A positive correlation (r = 0.37; p < 0.004) between academic performance and SRI was observed. These findings show that irregular sleep and light exposure patterns in college students are associated with delayed circadian rhythms and lower academic performance. Moreover, the modeling results reveal that light-based interventions may be therapeutically effective in improving sleep regularity in this population.

Concepts: Chronotype, Chronobiology, Circadian rhythms, Sleep, Delayed sleep phase syndrome, Phase response curve, Melatonin, Circadian rhythm


Inactivation is an intrinsic property of several voltage-dependent ion channels, closing the conduction pathway during membrane depolarization and dynamically regulating neuronal activity. BK K(+) channels undergo N-type inactivation via their β2 subunit, but the physiological significance is not clear. Here, we report that inactivating BK currents predominate during the day in the suprachiasmatic nucleus, the brain’s intrinsic clock circuit, reducing steady-state current levels. At night inactivation is diminished, resulting in larger BK currents. Loss of β2 eliminates inactivation, abolishing the diurnal variation in both BK current magnitude and SCN firing, and disrupting behavioural rhythmicity. Selective restoration of inactivation via the β2 N-terminal ‘ball-and-chain’ domain rescues BK current levels and firing rate, unexpectedly contributing to the subthreshold membrane properties that shift SCN neurons into the daytime ‘upstate’. Our study reveals the clock employs inactivation gating as a biophysical switch to set the diurnal variation in suprachiasmatic nucleus excitability that underlies circadian rhythm.

Concepts: Nervous system, Melatonin, Chronotype, Hypothalamus, Chronobiology, Sleep, Circadian rhythms, Circadian rhythm


Shift work, like chronic jet lag, is known to disrupt workers' normal circadian rhythms and social life, and to be associated with increased health problems (eg, ulcers, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, breast cancer, reproductive difficulties) and with acute effects on safety and productivity. However, very little is known about the long-term consequences of shift work on cognitive abilities. The aim of this study was to assess the chronicity and reversibility of the effects of shift work on cognition.

Concepts: Thought, Knowledge, Epidemiology, Medicine, Cognition, Circadian rhythms, Circadian rhythm sleep disorder, Cancer


A diurnal rhythm of eating-fasting promotes health, but the eating pattern of humans is rarely assessed. Using a mobile app, we monitored ingestion events in healthy adults with no shift-work for several days. Most subjects ate frequently and erratically throughout wakeful hours, and overnight fasting duration paralleled time in bed. There was a bias toward eating late, with an estimated <25% of calories being consumed before noon and >35% after 6 p.m. “Metabolic jetlag” resulting from weekday/weekend variation in eating pattern akin to travel across time zones was prevalent. The daily intake duration (95% interval) exceeded 14.75 hr for half of the cohort. When overweight individuals with >14 hr eating duration ate for only 10-11 hr daily for 16 weeks assisted by a data visualization (raster plot of dietary intake pattern, “feedogram”) that we developed, they reduced body weight, reported being energetic, and improved sleep. Benefits persisted for a year.

Concepts: Circadian rhythms, Jet lag, Diurnality, Health, Sleep, Human, Circadian rhythm, Nutrition


Circadian rhythms, among other factors, have been shown to regulate key physiological processes involved in athletic performance [1-7]. Personal best performance of athletes in the evening was confirmed across different sports [8-12]. Contrary to this view, we identified peak performance times in athletes to be different between human “larks” and “owls” (also called “morningness/eveningness types” [13] or “chronotypes” [14] and referred to as circadian phenotypes in this paper), i.e., individuals with well-documented genetic [15-20] and physiological [21-24] differences that result in disparities between their biological clocks and how they entrain to exogenous cues, such as the environmental light/dark cycle and social factors. We found time since entrained awakening to be the major predictor of peak performance times, rather than time of day, as well as significant individual performance variations as large as 26% in the course of a day. Our novel approach combining the use of an athlete-specific chronometric test, longitudinal circadian analysis, and physical performance tests to characterize relevant sleep/wake and performance parameters in athletes allows a comprehensive analysis of the link between the circadian system and diurnal performance variation. We establish that the evaluation of an athlete’s personal best performance requires consideration of circadian phenotype, performance evaluation at different times of day, and analysis of performance as a function of time since entrained awakening. VIDEO ABSTRACT:

Concepts: Biology, Diurnal cycle, Diurnality, Circadian rhythms, Time, Sleep, Circadian rhythm