The circadian clock and pathology of the ageing brain

Nat Rev Neurosci. 2012 Mar 7;13(5):325-35. doi: 10.1038/nrn3208.


Ageing leads to a functional deterioration of many brain systems, including the circadian clock--an internal time-keeping system that generates ∼24-hour rhythms in physiology and behaviour. Numerous clinical studies have established a direct correlation between abnormal circadian clock functions and the severity of neurodegenerative and sleep disorders. Latest data from experiments in model organisms, gene expression studies and clinical trials imply that dysfunctions of the circadian clock contribute to ageing and age-associated pathologies, thereby suggesting a functional link between the circadian clock and age-associated decline of brain functions. Potential molecular mechanisms underlying this link include the circadian control of physiological processes such as brain metabolism, reactive oxygen species homeostasis, hormone secretion, autophagy and stem cell proliferation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aging / pathology*
  • Aging / physiology
  • Animals
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Brain / physiology
  • Circadian Clocks / physiology*
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology*
  • Cognition Disorders / pathology
  • Cognition Disorders / physiopathology
  • Humans