A dogma in the field of circadian rhythms is that in order to keep accurate time, pacemakers that generate such rhythms must be relatively independent of changes in the external and internal environment. While it is true that the period of circadian oscillators is conserved within a narrow range, regardless of alterations in the external and internal environment, numerous perturbations have now been found that can change the period and/or induce a phase shift in circadian pacemakers. Many of these perturbations also alter the overall level of activity and/or metabolic state of the organism. In 1960, Aschoff suggested that alterations in the "level of excitement" may induce changes in circadian clocks. Although little attention has been given to this hypothesis over the past three decades, recent findings support its validity and open new avenues for studying the function and organization of circadian clock systems.