Send to

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
J Biol Rhythms. 2011 Apr;26(2):149-59. doi: 10.1177/0748730410395849.

Aging of intrinsic circadian rhythms and sleep in a diurnal nonhuman primate, Macaca mulatta.

Author information

  • 1Laboratory of Sleep and Circadian Physiology, Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, Boston University School of Medicine, 715 Albany St R-913, Boston, MA 02118-2394, USA.


There is growing evidence that alterations in the intrinsic circadian clock and sleep might affect the aging process. The rhesus monkey (Macaca mulatta) provides unique opportunities to explore the role of the clock in successful and unsuccessful physiological and cognitive aging in a diurnal primate with consolidated nighttime sleep, complex cognitive functions, long life span, and phylogenetic proximity to humans. A longitudinal study was conducted to characterize the effects of aging on the entrained and intrinsic circadian rhythms of activity, polysomnographic sleep patterns, and melatonin production in unrestrained male rhesus monkeys [6-9 (n=6) and 24-28 (n=4) years of age]. An age-dependent decline was found in the stability of circadian rhythms of activity and in peak melatonin levels. The range of individual intrinsic circadian periods (τ) is not age-dependent. Aged monkeys do not display clearly defined "morningness-eveningness" chronotypes and, unlike the young, show no correlation between the chronotype under entrained conditions and the length of intrinsic circadian period. The daily activity period (α) is reduced with age and this is associated with high day-to-day variability in sleep quantity and quality, fragmentation of nighttime sleep and daytime wakefulness, increased daytime sleep time, overall increase in stage 1 sleep, and reduced time spent in rapid-eye movement and slow-wave sleep. In the absence of environmental time cues, age-dependent changes in sleep and circadian rhythms are exacerbated and circadian patterns of sleep in young rhesus monkeys start resembling those in aged animals, together suggesting important role of circadian regulation in aging sleep phenotype. This first characterization of age-dependent changes in the intrinsic rhythms and sleep in rhesus monkeys, demonstrating major similarities to human aging phenotype, should assist in the search for the mechanisms involved and for effective prophylactic and therapeutic strategies.

© 2011 Sage Publications

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for HighWire
    Loading ...
    Write to the Help Desk