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The Role of Endogenous

Pacemakers and Exogenous

Zeitgebers …
What are they?
• Most organisms have an internal biological ‘clock’
which controls the circadian rhythm (24hr cycle)
• You biological clock is endogenous (part of the
internal organism)
• Biological clock helps us to realise an event (i.e. the
coming of night)
Because your clock effectively instructs neural
structures (paces them) over a 24hr cycle this is
known as an Endogenous Pacemaker

• Seasons = clock to be re-set. To achieve this your

clock is re-set each day using cues in the
environment (cues are outside the body referred to
as exogenous.)
• These exogenous cues (light, etc.) are known as
Endogenous Pacemakers
• Biological Clock
Ticking of clock created by reactions between
proteins. Darlington et al. (1998) describes…

• Proteins ‘CLOCK’ & ‘CYCLE’ bind together in the

• This causes the increase in the production of
proteins ‘PER’ & ‘TIM’, during the day…
• As these increase, production of CLOCK-CYCLE
• As they decrease production of PER-TIM fall and
CLOCK-CYCLE increase … ready to begin cycle
again … (new day)
Endogenous Pacemakers
• Suprachiasmatic Nucleus (SCN)
Main endogenous pacemaker found in the
hypothalamus. SCN is a pair of tiny clusters of
nerve cells. One half in left hemisphere of the brain
and one on the right. Just above where the optic
nerve from each eye cross over (optic chiasm).

SCN obtains info. on light from the optic nerve even

when shut. Special photoreceptors in the eyes pick
up light signals and carry them to SCN.

If our endogenous clock is running slow (i.e. sun rises

earlier than day before), the morning light
automatically shifts the clock ahead. So rhythm is
in step with the world outside
Endogenous Pacemakers
• Pineal Gland & Melatonin
SCN not only endogenous pacemaker. Pineal gland
contain light-sensitive cells.
Light = production of melatonin in the gland is
stopped. So, when levels of light fall, melatonin is
produced = inducing sleep
Therefore… Light, the pineal gland and melatonin
regulate the sleep-wake cycle.

Pineal gland is really important as a pacemaker in

birds and reptiles.
If SCN is damaged/removed from a organism, sleep-
wake patterns are affected (i.e. DeCoursey et al.
2000) suggesting the importance of the SCN in
controlling biological rhythms.
Morgan, 1995 - if ‘mutant’ hamsters are bred so they
have a circadian rhythm of 20 instead of 24hrs and
transplanted into normal hamsters, the normal
ones will display the 20hr rhythm. Showing the role
of SCN as a pacemaker.
SCN seems to be the main clock, but body temp.
rhythm continue to exist when the SCNs are
removed, suggesting another clock.
Folkard, 1996 - Kate Aldcroft spent weeks in cave,
after 25 days, temp. adopted a 24hr rhythm but her
sleep rhythm adopted a 30hr cycle.
• Pineal Gland & Melatonin
Moyer et al. 1997 - light causes pineal gland to
produce melatonin in lizards. If the gland is
removed, it continues to produce melatonin
rhythmically in response to light for up to 10 days.

Potocki et al. 2000 - levels of melatonin are inverted

for those who suffer from Smith-Magenis syndrome
(difficult falling asleep). Taking supplements of
melatonin at night can help with symptoms =
supporting role of melatonin in sleep-wake cycle.

Sackett & Korner, 1993 - melatonin circulates in the

blood, so would expect ‘Siamese’ twins to share
circadian rhythms, but they do not; questioning the
role of melatonin.
Question Time
• What is an endogenous pacemaker?

• How does Darlington et al. (1998) describe the

reaction between proteins? (process)

• What is the SCN? Where is it? What does it do?

• Other than the SCN, what else is an endogenous


• What did Morgan, 1995 find? (hamsters)

• Who looked into ‘Siamese’ twins?

• Potocki et al. 2000 found?

Process of
resetting the
clock with
Exogenous Zeitgebers
exogenous • Social Cues
zeitgebers is
Biologists thought that social cues were the main
known as zeitgebers (external cues) for human circadian
entrainment… rhythm.

We eat meals at socially-determined meal times

(12.00 - Lunch), we go to bed and wake up at times
designated appropriate for our age, etc..

Our daily rhythms appeared to be reset (entrained) by

social convention, not internal biology (SCN, pineal

However its been recognised that …

Exogenous Zeitgebers
• Light
Light is the dominant zeitgeber in humans. After
discovery that exposure to bright light suppresses
melatonin production (Wever et al. 1983)
Hall, 2000 - certain proteins (cryptochromes) in the
body detect light … explaining that shining a light
on the back of ppt. knees changed their circadian
rhythms (Campbell & Murphy, 1998)
Importance of light as a time-giver can be difficult in
blind people. Lack of info. on light messes up their
sleep patterns.
One man (blind) had a circadian rhythm of 24.9hrs.
Exposed to various exogenous zeitgebers (social
cues, etc.) yet found great difficulty reducing his
internal pace, showing light is the most important
zeitgeber. (Miles et al. 1977)
Exogenous Zeitgebers
• Temperature
Biological rhythms can be also entrained by
temperature. E.g. leaves on a deciduous trees
change colour and fall because of changes in
Temperature is also a factor of hibernation.

No evidence to show that temperature affects human
biological rhythms
• Social Cues
Social cues provide a means of controlling social
behaviours (example in book, pg. 65)

• Light
Light cues sometimes are insufficient to override the
free-running clock (free of exogenous cues).
Kelly et al. 1999 – US nuclear submariners live on an
18hr day. All cues available (light, social, etc.)
didn’t shift the rhythm of melatonin production onto
their 18hr day, the rhythm remained tat 24hrs.
On a biochemical level, its been found that light
destroys the TIM portion of the PER-TIM protein,
which re-sets the biological clock
• Why is Light important?
Animals want to stay active when its light, safe from
predators (vice versa). Animals have an internal
clock that tells them when to wake up but their
circadian rhythm doesn’t match day length
because daylight changes over the course of the

• What about blind people?

Czeisler et al. 1995 – found some blind people do
respond to bright light exposure with reduced
melatonin production.
Suggesting… there are 2 pathways to the brain from
the eyes.
7. For conscious vision
8. For light travelling to the SCN
Question Time
1. What is meant by exogenous zeitgebers?

3. What 3 zeitgebers help reset your clock?

5. Other than the SCN, what in the body also

detects changes in light? (Hall, 2000)

7. What did Miles et al. 1977 find?

9. Who live on an 18hr day and what did Kelly et al.

1999 find?

11. Who discovered that some blind people respond

to bright light exposure?
• Advantages of endogenous pacemakers &
exogenous zeitgebers
We need pacemakers, otherwise there would be
problems. If an animals rhythm relied on
environmental cues: we might sleep most of the
day in winter.

DeCoursey et al. 2000 - destroyed SCN in chipmunks

and found they became more active ay night than
normal chipmunks and more likely to be eaten by

Exogenous zeitgebers allow animals to respond to

changes in the environment, without them an
animal might be awake at unsuitable times.
AO2, finally…
• Disadvantage of Biological rhythms
Biological rhythms will not change when you want
them to, for example when travelling across time

It is possible that your mind can have some

Born et al. 1999 – found people who were told to wake
up earlier than usual had higher levels of the stress
hormone adrenocortotrophic (contributes to the
waking-up process) than normal at the designated
time and woke up earlier