Deconstructing Circadian Rhythmicity with Models and Manipulations

Trends Neurosci. 2016 Jun;39(6):405-419. doi: 10.1016/j.tins.2016.03.006. Epub 2016 Apr 15.


A master brain clock, localized to the hypothalamic suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), coordinates daily rhythms of physiology and behavior. Within the SCN, interconnected individual neurons are oscillators that, as an ensemble, function to send a coherent timing signal to the brain and body. However, individually, these neurons display different amplitudes, periods, and phases of oscillation. The dynamic properties of the SCN have been characterized over several spatial levels of analysis, from proteins to cells to tissues, and over several temporal ranges, from milliseconds to weeks. Modeling tools guide empirical research in this complex and multiscale spatiotemporal environment. Given that the SCN is a prototypical example of oscillating neural systems, principles of its organization hold promise as general prototypes of rhythms in other frequencies.

Keywords: clock genes; connectome; coupling; multiplex models; neural circuits; suprachiasmatic nucleus.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Clocks / physiology*
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamus / physiology
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Proteins / metabolism
  • Suprachiasmatic Nucleus / physiology*


  • Proteins