The work is reported in the May 24 issue of Current Biology by a research team led by Johanna H. Meijer of Leiden University Medical Center in The Netherlands.
The researchers studied clock-resetting behavior in rats that were exposed to a six-hour delay of the light schedule, a shift that mimics a transition from the eastern U.S. to western Europe. By performing electrophysiological analysis of cells that constitute the central circadian clock, the researchers made a surprising discovery: one part of the clock mechanism, represented by a dorsal (upper) group of cells, exhibited oscillations in activity that corresponded to slow resetting of the clock in response to the shifted light schedule, while another part of the clock, represented by a ventral (lower) group of cells, exhibited a distinct pattern of activity that corresponded to fast resetting of the clock.
Perhaps contributing to the different behavior of the two groups of clock cells are the effects on these cells of the neurotransmitter GABA, which the researchers found to excite the cells of the dorsal SCN while inhibiting neurons in the ventral SCN. Because GABA transmits information between the ventral and dorsal SCN, such differences in effect might influence, in