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Chronobiol Int. 2017;34(2):162-191. doi: 10.1080/07420528.2016.1236807. Epub 2016 Nov 10.

Seven-day human biological rhythms: An expedition in search of their origin, synchronization, functional advantage, adaptive value and clinical relevance.

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a Unité de Chronobiologie , Fondation Adolphe de Rothschild , Paris Cedex , France.
b Hôpital Français Saint Louis , Jerusalem , Israel.
c Department of Biomedical Engineering , Cockrell School of Engineering, The University of Texas at Austin , Austin , TX , USA.


This fact-finding expedition explores the perspectives and knowledge of the origin and functional relevance of the 7 d domain of the biological time structure, with special reference to human beings. These biological rhythms are displayed at various levels of organization in diverse species - from the unicellular sea algae of Acetabularia and Goniaulax to plants, insects, fish, birds and mammals, including man - under natural as well as artificial, i.e. constant, environmental conditions. Nonetheless, very little is known about their derivation, functional advantage, adaptive value, synchronization and potential clinical relevance. About 7 d cosmic cycles are seemingly too weak, and the 6 d work/1 d rest week commanded from G-d through the Laws of Mosses to the Hebrews is too recent an event to be the origin in humans. Moreover, human and insect studies conducted under controlled constant conditions devoid of environmental, social and other time cues report the persistence of 7 d rhythms, but with a slightly different (free-running) period (τ), indicating their source is endogenous. Yet, a series of human and laboratory rodent studies reveal certain mainly non-cyclic exogenous events can trigger 7 d rhythm-like phenomena. However, it is unknown whether such triggers unmask, amplify and/or synchronize previous non-overtly expressed oscillations. Circadian (~24 h), circa-monthly (~30 d) and circannual (~1 y) rhythms are viewed as genetically based features of life forms that during evolution conferred significant functional advantage to individual organisms and survival value to species. No such advantages are apparent for endogenous 7 d rhythms, raising several questions: What is the significance of the 7 d activity/rest cycle, i.e. week, storied in the Book of Genesis and adopted by the Hebrews and thereafter the residents of nearby Mediterranean countries and ultimately the world? Why do humans require 1 d off per 7 d span? Do 7 d rhythms bestow functional advantage to organisms? Is the magic ascribed to the number 7 of relevance? We hypothesize the 7 d time structure of human beings is endogenous in origin - a hypothesis that is affirmed by a wide array of evidence - and synchronized by sociocultural factors linked to the Saturday (Hebrews) or Sunday (Christian) holy day of rest. We also hypothesize they are representative, at least in part, of the biological requirement for rest and repair 1 d each 7 d, just as the circadian time structure is representative, in part, of the biological need for rest and repair each 24 h.


7-day rhythms; Adaptive capacity; Hebraic week; chronotherapy; circaseptan rhythms; clinical applications; functional value

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