Circadian Influences on the Habenula and Their Potential Contribution to Neuropsychiatric Disorders

Callum J Young, David Lyons, Hugh D Piggins

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The neural circadian system consists of the master circadian clock in the hypothalamic suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN) communicating time of day cues to the rest of the body including other brain areas that also rhythmically express circadian clock genes. Over the past 16 years, evidence has emerged to indicate that the habenula of the epithalamus is a candidate extra-SCN circadian oscillator. When isolated from the SCN, the habenula sustains rhythms in clock gene expression and neuronal activity, with the lateral habenula expressing more robust rhythms than the adjacent medial habenula. The lateral habenula is responsive to putative SCN output factors as well as light information conveyed to the perihabenula area. Neuronal activity in the lateral habenula is altered in depression and intriguingly disruptions in circadian rhythms can elevate risk of developing mental health disorders including depression. In this review, we will principally focus on how circadian and light signals affect the lateral habenula and evaluate the possibility that alteration in these influences contribute to mental health disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Article number815700
Pages (from-to)815700
JournalFrontiers in behavioral neuroscience
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jan 2022


  • burst firing
  • circadian
  • clock gene
  • depression
  • epithalamus


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