The mammalian central circadian pacemaker (the suprachiasmatic nucleus, SCN) contains thousands of neurons that are coupled through a complex network of interactions. In addition to the established role of the SCN in generating rhythms of ~24 hours in many physiological functions, the SCN was recently shown to be necessary for normal self-similar/fractal organization of motor activity and heart rate over a wide range of time scales-from minutes to 24 hours. To test whether the neural network within the SCN is sufficient to generate such fractal patterns, we studied multi-unit neural activity of in vivo and in vitro SCNs in rodents. In vivo SCN-neural activity exhibited fractal patterns that are virtually identical in mice and rats and are similar to those in motor activity at time scales from minutes up to 10 hours. In addition, these patterns remained unchanged when the main afferent signal to the SCN, namely light, was removed. However, the fractal patterns of SCN-neural activity are not autonomous within the SCN as these patterns completely broke down in the isolated in vitro SCN despite persistence of circadian rhythmicity. Thus, SCN-neural activity is fractal in the intact organism and these fractal patterns require network interactions between the SCN and extra-SCN nodes. Such a fractal control network could underlie the fractal regulation observed in many physiological functions that involve the SCN, including motor control and heart rate regulation.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)