Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Source

Chronobiology International

Volume Number


Issue Number


First Page


Last Page



Taylor & Francis




This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Chronobiology International on August 23, 2019, available online:


Daily rhythms in light exposure influence the expression of behavior by entraining circadian rhythms and through its acute effects on behavior (i.e., masking). Importantly, these effects of light are dependent on the temporal niche of the organism; for diurnal organisms, light increases activity, whereas for nocturnal organisms, the opposite is true. Here we examined the functional and morphological differences between diurnal and nocturnal rodents in retinorecipient brain regions using Nile grass rats (Arvicanthis niloticus) and Sprague-Dawley (SD) rats (Rattus norvegicus), respectively. We established the presence of circadian rhythmicity in cFOS activation in retinorecipient brain regions in nocturnal and diurnal rodents housed in constant dark conditions to highlight different patterns between the temporal niches. We then assessed masking effects by comparing cFOS activation in constant darkness (DD) to that in a 12:12 light/dark (LD) cycle, confirming light responsiveness of these regions during times when masking occurs in nature. The intergeniculate leaflet (IGL) and olivary pretectal nucleus (OPN) exhibited significant variation among time points in DD of both species, but their expression profiles were not identical, as SD rats had very low expression levels for most timepoints. Light presentation in LD conditions induced clear rhythms in the IGL of SD rats but eliminated them in grass rats. Additionally, grass rats were the only species to demonstrate daily rhythms in LD for the habenula and showed a strong response to light in the superior colliculus. Structurally, we also analyzed the volumes of the visual brain regions using anatomical MRI, and we observed a significant increase in the relative size of several visual regions within diurnal grass rats, including the lateral geniculate nucleus, superior colliculus, and optic tract. Altogether, our results suggest that diurnal grass rats devote greater proportions of brain volume to visual regions than nocturnal rodents, and cFOS activation in these brain regions is dependent on temporal niche and lighting conditions.


diurnality, visual system, circadian, light exposure, magnetic resonance imaging