Daily hoarding opportunity entrains the pacemaker for hamster activity rhythms
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The effects on activity rhythms of a daily 30 min opportunity to leave the home cage and hoard seeds from an open field were assessed in Syrian hamsters housed in continuous dim illumination. Six of ten hamsters responded with clear entrainment of their activity rhythms to the hoarding opportunity, as demonstrated by responses to phase shifts and by the onset phase of subsequent freerunning rhythms. No entrainable component separate from the freerunning rhythm was ever observed. Two hamsters showed phase shifts in response to the hoarding opportunity, but they did not meet the criteria for stable entrainment, and two did not respond with noticeable changes in rhythmicity. Ablations of the suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN) were attempted in three hamsters that had entrained stably to the hoarding time. The effects of partial lesions in two animals indicated that the entrained rhythm was controlled by the light-entrainable pacemaker represented by the SCN. The one animal with an apparently complete lesion, however, developed a clear, but irregular, increase in activity in anticipation of the daily hoarding time. SCN ablation apparently unmasked an oscillator system separate from the SCN and susceptible to entrainment by a nonphotic cue. The oscillator mechanism affected by daily hoarding opportunities in hamsters appears to be tightly coupled to the SCN pacemaker, in contrast to the system in rats that is synchronized by daily feeding schedules.
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