This project investigates the neuroendocrine mechanisms by which mammals generate seasonal variations in physiological and behavioral traits in synchrony with changing environmental conditions and the consequences of this variation for aging of circadian function. Studies in this area have examined responses of Siberian, Phodopus sungorus, and Syrian hamsters, Mesocricetus auratus, exposed to static long and short day lengths of early summer and winter, respectively. Accumulating evidence establishes that photoperiodic systems function markedly differently under natural conditions that incorporate the incrementally and continuously changing pattern of day lengths under which these systems evolved. An ecologically relevant understanding of these annual rhythms is particularly important clinically, as humans, like laboratory rodents, are commonly isolated from the yearly pattern of change in daylength, but the consequences of this deprivation have gone virtually unexamined. Specific experiments in hamsters address 1) whether under naturalistic conditions melatonin interacts endogenous temporal programs that mediate the transitions between photoperiodic states;2) how the function of the circadian oscillator is regulated by seasonal photoperiods;and 3) how age-related deficits in circadian function can be retarded by photoperiodic manipulations. The proposed experiments are relevant to an understanding of the myriad human seasonal rhythms that have been previously documented (e.g., in cardiovascular disease, neurodevelopmental disorders, immune function, sleep duration, body weight, depression and nonpsychiatric mood states). Additionally, these studies will assess whether photoperiodic manipulations might be effective adjuncts to achieve rapid phase-shifting of human rhythms, and whether such manipulations have therapeutic value for disruptions of circadian rhythmicity in old age. Finally, these studies form a necessary information base to evaluate the potential physiological costs and benefits of artificial lighting regimes experienced by humans in modern society.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Research Project (R01)
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Study Section
Biological Rhythms and Sleep Study Section (BRS)
Program Officer
Freund, Lisa S
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University of California San Diego
Schools of Arts and Sciences
La Jolla
United States
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Harrison, E M; Carmack, S A; Block, C L et al. (2017) Circadian waveform bifurcation, but not phase-shifting, leaves cued fear memory intact. Physiol Behav 169:106-113
Evans, J A; Gorman, M R (2016) In synch but not in step: Circadian clock circuits regulating plasticity in daily rhythms. Neuroscience 320:259-80
Glickman, G L; Harrison, E M; Elliott, J A et al. (2014) Increased photic sensitivity for phase resetting but not melatonin suppression in Siberian hamsters under short photoperiods. Horm Behav 65:301-7
Clark, Daniel D; Gorman, Michael R; Hatori, Megumi et al. (2013) Aberrant development of the suprachiasmatic nucleus and circadian rhythms in mice lacking the homeodomain protein Six6. J Biol Rhythms 28:15-25
Raiewski, Evan E; Elliott, Jeffrey A; Evans, Jennifer A et al. (2012) Twice daily melatonin peaks in Siberian but not Syrian hamsters under 24 h light:dark:light:dark cycles. Chronobiol Int 29:1206-15
Evans, Jennifer A; Elliott, Jeffrey A; Gorman, Michael R (2011) Dim nighttime illumination interacts with parametric effects of bright light to increase the stability of circadian rhythm bifurcation in hamsters. Chronobiol Int 28:488-96
Trujillo, Jennifer L; Do, David T; Grahame, Nicholas J et al. (2011) Ethanol consumption in mice: relationships with circadian period and entrainment. Alcohol 45:147-59
Butler, Matthew P; Turner, Kevin W; Park, Jin Ho et al. (2010) Seasonal regulation of reproduction: altered role of melatonin under naturalistic conditions in hamsters. Proc Biol Sci 277:2867-74
Frank, David W; Evans, Jennifer A; Gorman, Michael R (2010) Time-dependent effects of dim light at night on re-entrainment and masking of hamster activity rhythms. J Biol Rhythms 25:103-12
Evans, Jennifer A; Elliott, Jeffrey A; Gorman, Michael R (2010) Dynamic interactions between coupled oscillators within the hamster circadian pacemaker. Behav Neurosci 124:87-96

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