Circadian-time sickness: Time-of-day cue-conflicts directly affect health

Oct 07, 2016

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A daily rhythm that is not in synchrony with the environmental light–dark cycle (as in jetlag and shift work) is known to affect mood and health through an as yet unresolved neural mechanism. Here, we combine Bayesian probabilistic ‘cue-conflict’ theory with known physiology of the biological clock of the brain, entailing the insight that, for a functional pacemaker, it is sufficient to have two interacting units (reflecting environmental and internal time-of-day cues), without the need for an extra homuncular directing unit. Unnatural light–dark cycles cause a time-of-day cue-conflict that is reflected by a desynchronization between the ventral (environmental) and dorsal (internal) pacemaking signals of the pacemaker. We argue that this desynchronization, in-and-of-itself, produces health issues that we designate as ‘circadian-time sickness’, analogous to ‘motion sickness’.