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Biological Rhythms Workshop IB: neurophysiology of SCN pacemaker function.

journal contribution
posted on 01.01.2007 by Sandra Kuhlman

Pacemakers are functional units capable of generating oscillations that synchronize downstream rhythms. In mammals, the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) of the hypothalamus is a circadian pacemaker composed of individual neurons that intrinsically express a near 24-hour rhythm in gene expression. Rhythmic gene expression is tightly coupled to a rhythm in spontaneous firing rate via intrinsic daily regulation of potassium current. Recent progress in the field indicates that SCN pacemaking is a specialized property that emerges from intrinsic features of single cells, structural connectivity among cells, and activity dynamics within the SCN. The focus of this chapter is on how Nature built a functional pacemaker from many individual oscillators that is capable of coordinating the daily timing of essential brain and physiological processes.