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PLoS One. 2013;8(3):e59464. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0059464. Epub 2013 Mar 27.

Human chronotypes from a theoretical perspective.

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  • 1Institute for Theoretical Biology, Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany.

Abstract

The endogenous circadian timing system has evolved to synchronize an organism to periodically recurring environmental conditions. Those external time cues are called Zeitgebers. When entrained by a Zeitgeber, the intrinsic oscillator adopts a fixed phase relation ψ to the Zeitgeber. Here, we systematically study how the phase of entrainment depends on clock and Zeitgeber properties. We combine numerical simulations of amplitude-phase models with predictions from analytically tractable models. In this way we derive relations between the phase of entrainment ψ to the mismatch between the endogenous and Zeitgeber period, the Zeitgeber strength, and the range of entrainment. A core result is the "180° rule" asserting that the phase ψ varies over a range of about 180° within the entrainment range. The 180° rule implies that clocks with a narrow entrainment range ("strong oscillators") exhibit quite flexible entrainment phases. We argue that this high sensitivity of the entrainment phase contributes to the wide range of human chronotypes.

PMID:
23544070
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC3609763
Free PMC Article
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