The phase of the mammalian circadian system can be entrained to a range of environmental stimuli, or zeitgebers, including food availability and light. Further, locomotor activity can act as an entraining signal and represents a mechanism for an endogenous behavior to feedback and influence subsequent circadian function. This process involves a number of nuclei distributed across the brain stem, thalamus, and hypothalamus and ultimately alters SCN electrical and molecular function to induce phase shifts in the master circadian pacemaker. Locomotor activity feedback to the circadian system is effective across both nocturnal and diurnal species, including humans, and has recently been shown to improve circadian function in a mouse model with a weakened circadian system. This raises the possibility that exercise may be useful as a noninvasive treatment in cases of human circadian dysfunction including aging, shift work, transmeridian travel, and the blind.
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