In mammals, daily physiological activities are regulated by a central circadian pacemaker located in the hypothalamic suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN). Recently, an increasing number of studies have used diurnal grass rats to analyze neuronal mechanisms regulating diurnal behavior. However, spontaneous action potential firing rhythms in SCN neurons have not been demonstrated clearly in diurnal grass rats. Therefore, the present study examined extracellular single-unit recordings from SCN neurons in acute hypothalamic slices of Arvicanthis niloticus (Nile grass rats). The results of this study found that circadian firing rhythms with the highest frequency occurred at dusk (6.4 Hz at zeitgeber time (ZT)10–12), while the secondary peak occurred at dawn (5.6 Hz at ZT0-2), and the lowest frequency took place in the middle of the night (3.6 Hz at ZT14-16). Locomotor activity recordings from a separate group of animals demonstrated that the Nile grass rats of the laboratory colony used in this study displayed diurnal behaviors that coincided with large crepuscular peaks under 12:12 h light–dark cycles and bimodal rhythms under constant dim red light. Thus, a positive correlation between SCN firing frequencies and locomotor activity levels was observed in the Nile grass rats. Previously, behavioral coupling of action potential firings in SCN neurons has been suggested by in vivo recordings while the present study demonstrates that the sustenance of bimodal firing rhythms in grass rat SCN neurons can last at least one day in vitro.
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