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Journal of Biological Rhythms

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Gall, A. J., Goodwin, A. M., Khacherian, O. S., & Teal, L. B. (2020). Superior Colliculus Lesions Lead to Disrupted Responses to Light in Diurnal Grass Rats (Arvicanthis niloticus). Journal of Biological Rhythms, 35(1), 45–57. Copyright © 2019 The Author(s)


The circadian system regulates daily rhythms of physiology and behavior. Although extraordinary advances have been made to elucidate the brain mechanisms underlying the circadian system in nocturnal species, less is known in diurnal species. Recent studies have shown that retinorecipient brain areas such as the intergeniculate leaflet (IGL) and olivary pretectal nucleus (OPT) are critical for the display of normal patterns of daily activity in diurnal grass rats (Arvicanthis niloticus). Specifically, grass rats with IGL and OPT lesions respond to light in similar ways to intact nocturnal animals. Importantly, both the IGL and OPT project to one another in nocturnal species, and there is evidence that these 2 brain regions also project to the superior colliculus (SC). The SC receives direct retinal input, is involved in the triggering of rapid eye movement sleep in nocturnal rats, and is disproportionately large in the diurnal grass rat. The objective of the current study was to use diurnal grass rats to test the hypothesis that the SC is critical for the expression of diurnal behavior and physiology. We performed bilateral electrolytic lesions of the SC in female grass rats to examine behavioral patterns and acute responses to light. Most grass rats with SC lesions expressed significantly reduced activity in the presence of light. Exposing these grass rats to constant darkness reinstated activity levels during the subjective day, suggesting that light masks their ability to display a diurnal activity profile in 12:12 LD. Altogether, our data suggest that the SC is critical for maintaining normal responses to light in female grass rats.


superior colliculus, circadian, masking, grass rat, diurnality, behavior