Coordinated daily rhythms are evident in most aspects of our physiology, driven by internal timing systems known as circadian clocks. Our understanding of how biological clocks are built and function has grown exponentially over the past 20 years. With this has come an appreciation that disruption of the clock contributes to the pathophysiology of numerous diseases, from metabolic disease to neurological disorders to cancer. However, it remains to be determined whether it is the disruption of our rhythmic physiology per se (loss of timing itself), or altered functioning of individual clock components that drive pathology. Here, we review the importance of circadian rhythms in terms of how we (and other organisms) relate to the external environment, but also in relation to how internal physiological processes are coordinated and synchronized. These issues are of increasing importance as many aspects of modern life put us in conflict with our internal clockwork.
Keywords: SCN; biological rhythm; circadian; clock; metabolism; obesity; shift-work.
© 2015 The Authors. Bioessays published by WILEY Periodicals, Inc.