Send to

Choose Destination
J Biol Rhythms. 2017 Oct;32(5):444-455. doi: 10.1177/0748730417730169. Epub 2017 Sep 27.

The Dorsal Medial Habenula Minimally Impacts Circadian Regulation of Locomotor Activity and Sleep.

Author information

Center for Integrative Brain Research, Seattle Children's Research Institute, Seattle, Washington.
Department of Biology and Graduate Program in Neuroscience, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington.
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington.


In nocturnal rodents, voluntary wheel-running activity (WRA) represents a self-reinforcing behavior. We have previously demonstrated that WRA is markedly reduced in mice with a region-specific deletion of the transcription factor Pou4f1 (Brn3a), which leads to an ablation of the dorsal medial habenula (dMHb). The decrease in WRA in these dMHb-lesioned (dMHbCKO) mice suggests that the dMHb constitutes a critical center for conveying reinforcement by exercise. However, WRA also represents a prominent output of the circadian system, and the possibility remains that the dMHb is a source of input to the master circadian pacemaker located in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) of the hypothalamus. To test this hypothesis, we assessed the integrity of the circadian system in dMHbCKO mice. Here we show that the developmental lesion of the dMHb reduces WRA under both a light-dark cycle and constant darkness, increases the circadian period of WRA, but has no effect on the circadian amplitude or period of home cage activity or the daily amplitude of sleep stages, suggesting that the lengthening of period is a result of the decreased WRA in the mutant mice. Polysomnographic sleep recordings show that dMHbCKO mice have an overall unaltered daily amplitude of sleep stages but have fragmented sleep and an overall increase in total rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Photoresponsiveness is intact in dMHbCKO mice, but compared with control animals, they reentrain faster to a 6-h abrupt phase delay protocol. Circadian changes in WRA of dMHbCKO mice do not appear to emerge within the central pacemaker, as circadian expression of the clock genes Per1 and Per2 within the SCN is normal. We do find some evidence for fragmented sleep and an overall increase in total REM sleep, supporting a model in which the dMHb is part of the neural circuitry encoding motivation and involved in the manifestation of some of the symptoms of depression.


REM sleep; depression; habenula; motivation; physical activity; sleep

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Atypon Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center