The dorsomedial hypothalamic nucleus is not necessary for the expression of circadian food-anticipatory activity in rats

Glenn J. Landry, Glenn R. Yamakawa, Ian C. Webb, Rhiannon J. Mear, Ralph E. Mistlberger

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Restricted daytime feeding generates food-anticipatory activity (FAA) by entrainment of a circadian pacemaker separate from the light-entrainable pacemaker located in the SCN. The dorsomedial hypothalamic nucleus (DMH) has been proposed as the site of food-entrainable oscillators critical for the expression of FAA, but another study found no effects of complete DMH ablation on FAA. To account for these different results, the authors examined methodological factors, including (1) cage configuration and feeding method and (2) use of social cues. Intact and DMH-ablated rats were maintained on one 4-h daily meal in the middle of the light period, using caging and feeding methods matching those of Gooley et al. (2006). Rats with partial or complete DMH ablation were less nocturnal during ad lib food access but exhibited normal FAA during restricted feeding, as quantified by FAA magnitude, ratios, latency to appearance, duration, and precision. To evaluate the use of social cues, intact rats naive to restricted-feeding schedules were food deprived for 72 h on 4 tests. Daytime activity increased during food deprivation, but the magnitude and waveform of this activity was not influenced by the presence of food-entrained rats exhibiting robust FAA in adjacent cages. Thus, hungry intact rats do not use social cues to anticipate a daily mealtime, suggesting that DMH-ablated rats do not anticipate meals by reacting to sounds from food-entrained intact rats in adjacent cabinets. These results confirm our previous finding that the DMH is not critical for normal expression of FAA in rats, and this observation is extended to food restriction methodologies used by other labs. The methodological differences that do underlie discrepant results remain unresolved, as does the location of food-entrainable oscillators, input pathways, and output pathways critical for FAA.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)467-478
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Biological Rhythms
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Circadian rhythms
  • Dorsomedial nucleus of hypothalamus
  • Food entrainment
  • Locomotor activity
  • Rat
  • Restricted feeding

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