Different adaptation of the motor activity rhythm to chronic phase shifts between adolescent and adult rats

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Chronic phase shifts is a common feature in modern societies, which may induce sleep alterations and other health problems. The effects of phase shift on the circadian rhythms have been described to be more pronounced in old than in young animals. However, few works address the effects of chronic phase shifts during adolescence. Here we tested the development of the motor activity circadian rhythm of young rats under chronic phase shifts, which consisted on 6-h advances (A), 6 h delays (D) or 6 h advances and delays alternated every 5 days (AD) during the first 60 days after weaning. Moreover, the rhythmic pattern was compared to that of adult rats under the same lighting conditions. Results indicate that adolescent rats, independently on the lighting environment, developed a clear circadian rhythm, whose amplitude increased the first 50 days after weaning and showed a more stable circadian rhythm than adults under the same lighting conditions. In the case of A and AD groups, circadian disruption was observed only in adult rats. In all groups, the offset of activity correlated with light pattern better than the onset, and this correlation was always higher in the case of the rhythm of the pubertal rats. When AD groups were transferred to constant darkness, the group submitted to this condition during adolescence showed shorter period than that submitted in their adulthood. In conclusion, differently from adult rats, adolescent rats submitted to chronic phase shifts did not show circadian disruption and developed a single circadian rhythm, suggesting permanent changes in the circadian system.

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