Regulation and function of extra-SCN circadian oscillators in the brain

Kimberly Begemann, Anne Marie Neumann, Henrik Oster*

*Corresponding author for this work
1 Citation (Scopus)


Most organisms evolved endogenous, so called circadian clocks as internal timekeeping mechanisms allowing them to adapt to recurring changes in environmental demands brought about by 24-hour rhythms such as the light-dark cycle, temperature variations or changes in humidity. The mammalian circadian clock system is based on cellular oscillators found in all tissues of the body that are organized in a hierarchical fashion. A master pacemaker located in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) synchronizes peripheral tissue clocks and extra-SCN oscillators in the brain with each other and with external time. Different time cues (so called Zeitgebers) such as light, food intake, activity and hormonal signals reset the clock system through the SCN or by direct action at the tissue clock level. While most studies on non-SCN clocks so far have focused on peripheral tissues, several extra-SCN central oscillators were characterized in terms of circadian rhythm regulation and output. Some of them are directly innervated by the SCN pacemaker, while others receive indirect input from the SCN via other neural circuits or extra-brain structures. The specific physiological function of these non-SCN brain oscillators as well as their role in the regulation of the circadian clock network remains understudied. In this review we summarize our current knowledge about the regulation and function of extra-SCN circadian oscillators in different brain regions and devise experimental approaches enabling us to unravel the organization of the circadian clock network in the central nervous system.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13446
JournalActa Physiologica
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 01.05.2020

Research Areas and Centers

  • Academic Focus: Biomedical Engineering


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