Functioning of the rat circadian system is modified by light applied in critical postnatal days

Maria Canal, M. M. Canal-Corretger, J. Vilaplana, T. Cambras, A. Díez-Noguera

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    Lighting conditions influence biological clocks. The present experiment was designed to test the presence of a critical window of days during the lactation stage of the rat in which light has a decisive role on the development of the circadian system. Rats were exposed to 4, 8, or 12 days of constant light (LL) during the first days of life. Their circadian rhythm was later studied under LL and constant darkness. The response to a light pulse was also examined. Results show that the greater the number of LL days during lactation, the stronger the rhythm under LL and the smaller the phase shift due to the light pulse. These responses are enhanced when rats are exposed to LL days around postnatal day 12. A mathematical model was built to explain the responses of the circadian system with respect to the timing of LL during lactation, and we deduced that between postnatal days 10 to 20 there is a critical period of sensitivity to light; consequently, exposure to LL during this time modifies the circadian organization of the motor activity.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)R1023-R1030
    JournalAJP: Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 2001


    • Circadian rhythm
    • Light sensitivity


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