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Brain Res. 1979 Mar 23;164:17-38.

Neonatal suprachiasmatic nucleus lesions: effects on the development of circadian rhythms in the rat.


Previous studies of the effects of suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) destruction and visual pathway transections in adult rodents have revealed the primary significance of the SCN and the retinohypothalamic (RH) projection in the generation and entrainment of circadian rhythms. In the present study we found that complete ablation of the SCN in 2-day-old rats, prior to its innervation by the RH projection, permanently eliminates circadian rhythms in spontaneous locomotor activity and drinking; activity and drinking appear randomly distributed over the light-dark cycle. In addition, females exhibit long periods of constant vaginal cornification and an absence of normal estrous cycles. These effects are independent of the animal's visual status; that is, they occur in blinded as well as sighted animals. Incomplete SCN lesions results in partial disruption of rhythmic functions such as damping of circadian rhythms in activity and/or drinking, irregular estrous cycling, and/or complete disruption of only one or two of these measures of rhythmicity. The absence of spared functions after early SCN destruction is consistent with the high degree of specificity for the SCN exhibited by developing RH fibers and further emphasizes the significance of the SCN in circadian rhythm generation. Neither morphological nor functional plasticity has been found following neonatal ablation of the SCN in the rat.

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