Rhythms of life: circadian disruption and brain disorders across the lifespan

Nat Rev Neurosci. 2019 Jan;20(1):49-65. doi: 10.1038/s41583-018-0088-y.


Many processes in the human body - including brain function - are regulated over the 24-hour cycle, and there are strong associations between disrupted circadian rhythms (for example, sleep-wake cycles) and disorders of the CNS. Brain disorders such as autism, depression and Parkinson disease typically develop at certain stages of life, and circadian rhythms are important during each stage of life for the regulation of processes that may influence the development of these disorders. Here, we describe circadian disruptions observed in various brain disorders throughout the human lifespan and highlight emerging evidence suggesting these disruptions affect the brain. Currently, much of the evidence linking brain disorders and circadian dysfunction is correlational, and so whether and what kind of causal relationships might exist are unclear. We therefore identify remaining questions that may direct future research towards a better understanding of the links between circadian disruption and CNS disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Diseases / complications*
  • Brain Diseases / physiopathology
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Longevity / physiology*
  • Sleep / physiology*
  • Sleep Disorders, Circadian Rhythm / complications*
  • Sleep Disorders, Circadian Rhythm / physiopathology