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Photoperiod-Induced Neuroplasticity in the Circadian System.

  • Author(s): Porcu, Alessandra;
  • Riddle, Malini;
  • Dulcis, Davide;
  • Welsh, David K
  • et al.

Seasonal changes in light exposure have profound effects on behavioral and physiological functions in many species, including effects on mood and cognitive function in humans. The mammalian brain's master circadian clock, the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), transmits information about external light conditions to other brain regions, including some implicated in mood and cognition. Although the detailed mechanisms are not yet known, the SCN undergoes highly plastic changes at the cellular and network levels under different light conditions. We therefore propose that the SCN may be an essential mediator of the effects of seasonal changes of day length on mental health. In this review, we explore various forms of neuroplasticity that occur in the SCN and other brain regions to facilitate seasonal adaptation, particularly altered phase distribution of cellular circadian oscillators in the SCN and changes in hypothalamic neurotransmitter expression.

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