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Press Release

Suprachiasmatic Nucleus Functions Beyond Circadian Rhythm Generation

December 20, 2007

From a Brigham and Women's Press Release

Kun Hu, PhD, and Frank Scheer, PhD, both of the Division of Sleep Medicine, along with colleagues from Boston University, Mexico and the Netherlands, report in the November 9, 2007 issue of Neuroscience that scale-invariant patterns in behavioral activity are essentially identical in humans and rats, and exist for up to 24 hours, which is six times longer than previously reported.

Using animal models, the researchers demonstrated that the circadian pacemaker, or suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), known to control motor activity with a period of approximately 24 hours, is also a major node in the network of activity control that generates these scale-invariant motor patterns over a wide range of time scales from minutes up to 24 hours. Hu and colleagues found that lesioning the SCN in rats completely abolished the scale-invariant motor patterns between 4 and 24 hours, and altered the patters at time scales less than 4 hours.

Scale-invariant patterns exist in many neurophysiological systems. This and related research will try to examine how the SCN interacts with other body functions such as heart rate and body temperature, and how the interactions between the SCN and other neuronal nodes contribute to the scale-invariant control of behavioral activity and other physiological systems.

This research was funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, and a Pickwick Fellowship.

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