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Influence of gravity on the circadian timing system

Advances in Space Research
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/0273-1177(94)90431-6
  • Biology
  • Medicine


Abstract The circadian timing system (CTS) is responsible for daily temporal coordination of physiological and behavioral functions both internally and with the external environment. Experiments in altered gravitational environments have revealed changes in circadian rhythms of species ranging from fungi to primates. The altered gravitational environments examined included both the microgravity environment of spaceflight and hyperdynamic environments produced by centrifugation. Acute exposure to altered gravitational environments changed homeostatic parameters such as body temperature. These changes were time of day dependent. Exposure to gravitational alterations of relatively short duration produced changes in both the homeostatic level and the amplitude of circadian rhythms. Chronic exposure to a non-earth level of gravity resulted in changes in the period of the expressed rhythms as well as in the phase relationships between the rhythms and between the rhythms and the external environment. In addition, alterations in gravity appeared to act as a time cue for the CTS. Altered gravity also affected the sensitivity of the pacemaker to other aspects of the environment (i.e., light) and to shifts of time cues. Taken together, these studies lead to the conclusion that the CTS is indeed sensitive to gravity and its alterations. This finding has implications for both basic biology and space medicine.

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