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Biol Psychiatry. 2013 Sep 1;74(5):333-9. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2012.11.021. Epub 2012 Dec 28.

The circadian system in Alzheimer's disease: disturbances, mechanisms, and opportunities.

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Department of Psychology, National University of Ireland, Maynooth, Republic of Ireland.


Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a devastating neurodegenerative condition associated with severe cognitive and behavioral impairments. Circadian rhythms are recurring cycles that display periods of approximately 24 hours and are driven by an endogenous circadian timekeeping system centered on the suprachiasmatic nucleus of the hypothalamus. We review the compelling evidence that circadian rhythms are significantly disturbed in AD and that such disturbance is of significant clinical importance in terms of behavioral symptoms. We also detail findings from neuropathological studies of brain areas associated with the circadian system in postmortem studies, the use of animal models of AD in the investigation of circadian processes, and the evidence that chronotherapeutic approaches aimed at bolstering weakened circadian rhythms in AD produce beneficial outcomes. We argue that further investigation in such areas is warranted and highlight areas for future research that might prove fruitful in ultimately providing new treatment options for this most serious and intractable of conditions.


Alzheimer’s disease; SCN; chronotherapy; circadian; dementia; sleep

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