Integration and saturation within the circadian photic entrainment pathway of hamsters

Dwight E. Nelson, Joseph S. Takahashi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


The sensitivity of the visual pathway that subserves circadian entrainment was measured in hamsters after prior stimulation and using trains of multiple pulses. Immediately after subsaturating stimulation in the late subjective night, there was a significant decrease in responsiveness that persisted for at least 1 h. The reduced responsiveness was not due to light adaptation (shifting of the stimulus-response curve) but rather to response saturation, which appeared to reduce the sensitivity to subsequent stimulation and limit the maximum response of the pacemaker. The system, therefore, integrates the total number of photons delivered in two light stimuli separated in time by up to 1 h. The responsiveness was also measured using stimulus trains containing 10-1,000 individual pulses of equal irradiance and equal total photons. Results suggest that this pathway is responsive to the total photons delivered in all of the stimuli and is not responsive to light onsets or offsets associated with individual stimuli. These data outline several fundamental characteristics of phase shifting for the circadian photic entrainment pathway in hamsters. Knowledge of these characteristics is important for designing and interpreting results of future studies to dissect the cellular and molecular nature of the mammalian circadian clock and for understanding how visual information affects the cellular clock during entrainment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)R1351-R1361
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Regulatory Integrative and Comparative Physiology
Issue number5 46-5
StatePublished - Nov 1999


  • Activity rhythms
  • Biological clock
  • Phase shifts
  • Suprachiasmatic nuclei

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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