The dorsomedial hypothalamic nucleus is critical for the expression of food-entrainable circadian rhythms

Nat Neurosci. 2006 Mar;9(3):398-407. doi: 10.1038/nn1651. Epub 2006 Feb 19.


Circadian rhythms of behavior and physiology can be entrained by daily cycles of restricted food availability, but the pathways that mediate food entrainment are unknown. The dorsomedial hypothalamic nucleus (DMH) is critical for the expression of circadian rhythms and receives input from systems that monitor food availability. Here we report that restricted feeding synchronized the daily rhythm of DMH activity in rats such that c-Fos expression in the DMH was highest at scheduled mealtime. During food restriction, unlesioned rats showed a marked preprandial rise in locomotor activity, body temperature and wakefulness, and these responses were blocked by cell-specific lesions in the DMH. Furthermore, the degree of food entrainment correlated with the number of remaining DMH neurons, and lesions in cell groups surrounding the DMH did not block entrainment by food. These results establish that the neurons of the DMH have a critical role in the expression of food-entrainable circadian rhythms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Appetite Regulation / physiology
  • Biological Clocks / physiology
  • Body Temperature / physiology
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology*
  • Conditioning, Psychological / physiology
  • Denervation
  • Dorsomedial Hypothalamic Nucleus / anatomy & histology
  • Dorsomedial Hypothalamic Nucleus / physiology*
  • Food Deprivation / physiology
  • Male
  • Motor Activity / physiology
  • Neural Pathways / anatomy & histology
  • Neural Pathways / physiology*
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-fos / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Time Factors
  • Wakefulness / physiology


  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-fos