Food-anticipatory circadian rhythms: concepts and methods

Eur J Neurosci. 2009 Nov;30(9):1718-29. doi: 10.1111/j.1460-9568.2009.06965.x. Epub 2009 Oct 28.


Rats, mice and other species can behaviorally anticipate a predictable daily mealtime by entrainment of circadian oscillators (food-entrainable oscillators) distinct from those (light-entrainable oscillators) that regulate light-dark entrained rhythms of behavior and physiology. Neurobiological analysis of food-anticipatory rhythms has progressed slowly but is gaining pace. Food-anticipatory rhythms have proven to be surprisingly robust to many neural and circadian clock gene perturbations. A few neural ablation sites or gene mutations have been associated with loss or marked attenuation of anticipatory rhythms, but in each case there are apparently conflicting reports. Attenuation of food-anticipatory rhythms following neural or genetic perturbations could result from actions upstream or downstream from the clock mechanism, and could be limited to certain behavioral endpoints or recording conditions. Failure to observe attenuation could reflect compensation by alternate timing mechanisms that do not involve food-entrainable oscillators. To facilitate progress in neurobiological analysis of food-anticipatory rhythms, criteria for distinguishing among formally distinct mechanisms by which animals might anticipate a daily meal are reviewed, and procedural variables that can affect the expression of food-anticipatory rhythms in neurobiologically intact or compromised animals are identified.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Biological Clocks / physiology*
  • Body Temperature
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology*
  • Conditioning, Operant
  • Eating / physiology
  • Light
  • Models, Biological
  • Motor Activity / physiology
  • Time Perception / physiology