Circadian pacemaker control of feeding in the rat, at dawn.

Physiology & behavior

PubMedID: 7163394

Spiteri NJ, Prins AA, Keyser J, Strubbe JH. Circadian pacemaker control of feeding in the rat, at dawn. Physiol Behav. 1982;29(6):1141-5.
Previous studies suggest that feeding at dusk is probably dependent on the rat's immediate energy requirements, while feeding at dawn may have an 'anticipatory' function. However, little is known regarding the relative contribution of habit, energy deficits and circadian pacemakers in the expression of feeding behavior. The aim of the present study was to investigate the involvement of, and interplay between, habit, pacemaker synchronization and energy deficits in the occurrence of dawn feeding in rats. Light onset exerts a strong control over the timing of dawn feeding. The motivation to feed at dawn persists even when access to food is prevented during this period, and shows accompanying shifts with changes in light onset. Rats compensate their caloric deficit imposed by food restriction at dawn by eating earlier in the light phase. This feeding probably occurs in response to feedback mechanisms signalling an energy deficit. The rapid shift in dawn feeding with changes in light onset and food restriction, and its quick reappearance after discontinuing food restriction, argue against habit formation as solely responsible for the occurrence and maintenance of dawn feeding. Habit formation does play a secondary role in the maintenance, but occurs within the 'boundaries' set by the pacemaker. These experiments show that the timing and maintenance of dawn feeding are under the control of a circadian pacemaker which can be shifted by light onset only.