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Front Neuroendocrinol. 2012 Aug;33(3):211-29. doi: 10.1016/j.yfrne.2012.04.003. Epub 2012 May 23.

The neuroendocrine control of the circadian system: adolescent chronotype.

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Department of Psychology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1043, USA.


Scientists, public health and school officials are paying growing attention to the mechanism underlying the delayed sleep patterns common in human adolescents. Data suggest that a propensity towards evening chronotype develops during puberty, and may be caused by developmental alterations in internal daily timekeeping. New support for this theory has emerged from recent studies which show that pubertal changes in chronotype occur in many laboratory species similar to human adolescents. Using these species as models, we find that pubertal changes in chronotype differ by sex, are internally generated, and driven by reproductive hormones. These chronotype changes are accompanied by alterations in the fundamental properties of the circadian timekeeping system, including endogenous rhythm period and sensitivity to environmental time cues. After comparing the developmental progression of chronotype in different species, we propose a theory regarding the ecological relevance of adolescent chronotype, and provide suggestions for improving the sleep of human adolescents.

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