Effects of the Light/Dark Phase and Constant Light on Spatial Working Memory and Spine Plasticity in the Mouse Hippocampus

Cells. 2023 Jun 30;12(13):1758. doi: 10.3390/cells12131758.


Circadian rhythms in behavior and physiology such as rest/activity and hormones are driven by an internal clock and persist in the absence of rhythmic environmental cues. However, the period and phase of the internal clock are entrained by the environmental light/dark cycle. Consequently, aberrant lighting conditions, which are increasing in modern society, have a strong impact on rhythmic body and brain functions. Mice were exposed to three different lighting conditions, 12 h light/12 h dark cycle (LD), constant darkness (DD), and constant light (LL), to study the effects of the light/dark cycle and aberrant lighting on the hippocampus, a critical structure for temporal and spatial memory formation and navigation. Locomotor activity and plasma corticosterone levels were analyzed as readouts for circadian rhythms. Spatial working memory via Y-maze, spine morphology of Golgi-Cox-stained hippocampi, and plasticity of excitatory synapses, measured by number and size of synaptopodin and GluR1-immunreactive clusters, were analyzed. Our results indicate that the light/dark cycle drives diurnal differences in synaptic plasticity in hippocampus. Moreover, spatial working memory, spine density, and size and number of synaptopodin and GluR1 clusters were reduced in LL, while corticosterone levels were increased. This indicates that acute constant light affects hippocampal function and synaptic plasticity.

Keywords: GluR1 (GluA1); circadian; constant darkness; corticosterone; diurnal; hippocampus; synapse; synaptopodin.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Corticosterone
  • Hippocampus
  • Light*
  • Memory, Short-Term
  • Mice
  • Spatial Memory*


  • Corticosterone

Grants and funding

This publication is supported by Heinrich Heine University and University Hospital, Düsseldorf, Germany.