Photic signals affect circadian activity rhythms by both phasic and tonic mechanisms that modulate pacemaker phase and period. In mammals, the effects of light on circadian activity are mediated by the retina, which communicates with the suprahiasmatic nucleus (SCN) by two different anatomical routes: the retino-hypothalamic tract (RHT), originating in the retina, and the geniculo-hypothalamic tract (GHT), arising from a retino-recipient nucleus, the intergeniculate leaflet (IGL). We assessed the roles of these two afferent systems in mediating phasic and tonic effects of light on circadian activity in IGL-lesioned animals. Destruction of the IGL significantly affected phase shifts produced by brief light pulses (phasic effect) and modified the change in period (τ) of the free-running activity rhythm produced by changing the level of constant light (LL) (tonic effect). Phase advances produced by brief light pulses were decreased in amplitude while phase delays were increased in IGL-lesioned animals as compared to controls. The free-running period in constant dark (τDD) of IGL-lesioned animals was greater than τDD of controls, and the lengthening of τ normally produced by LL was not observed or was greatly reduced in IGL-lesioned animals. Entrainment to light-dark cycles was unaffected by the lesions, as were other aspects of the circadian activity rhythm that normally change in response to LL (e.g., activity-rest ratio, total activity, splitting). Our data support the interpretation that the IGL plays a significant role in relaying information regarding illu mination intensity to the SCN.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Physiology (medical)