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J Biol Rhythms. 2007 Feb;22(1):3-13.

SCN organization reconsidered.

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Department of Psychiatry, Stony Brook University Medical Center, Stony Brook, NY 11794-8101, USA.


The SCN has long had organizational schemas imposed on it. In most, the SCN is dichotomized, with one region typically associated with the presence of vasopressin cells and the other associated with cells containing vasoactive intestinal polypeptide and certain afferent terminal fields. If assumed to be accurate, the schemas that have been intended to simplify and conceptually organize the known anatomy may actually interfere with the understanding of how various cell types and input pathways contribute to circadian rhythm regulation. This review describes inadequacies of existing schemas and notes several practical difficulties that undermine their usefulness. These include "static" versus "dynamic" anatomy, generalizations about SCN organization in relation to the plane or level of section, and the concept of differential density, all of which contribute to a view in which the SCN is substantially more complex than typically depicted in oversimplified line drawings. The need for accurate topographical description is emphasized.

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