Behavioral Responses to Combinations of Timed Light, Food Availability, and Ultradian Rhythms in the Common Vole (Microtus arvalis)

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Chronobiol Int, Volume 28, Number 7, p.563-571 (2011)


1525-6073 (Electronic)07

DOI Name (links to online publication)



Light is the main entraining signal of the central circadian clock, which drives circadian organization of activity. When food is made available during only certain parts of the day, it can entrain the clock in the liver without changing the phase of the central circadian clock. Although a hallmark of food entrainment is a behavioral anticipation of food availability, the extent of behavioral alterations in response to food availability has not been fully characterized. The authors have investigated interactions between light and temporal food availability in the timing of activity in the common vole. Temporally restricted food availability enhanced or attenuated re-entrainment to a phase advance in light entrainment when it was shifted together with the light or remained at the same time of day, respectively. When light-entrained behavior was challenged with temporal food availability cycles with a different period, two distinct activity components were observed. More so, the present data indicate that in the presence of cycles of different period length of food and light, an activity component emerged that appeared to be driven by a free-running (light-entrainable) clock. Because the authors have previously shown that in the common vole altering activity through running-wheel availability can alter the effectiveness of food availability to entrain the clock in the liver, the authors included running-wheel availability as a parameter that alters the circadian/ultradian balance in activity. In the current protocols, running-wheel availability enhanced the entraining potential of both light and food availability in a differential way. The data presented here show that in the vole activity is a complex of individually driven components and that this activity is, itself, an important modulator of the effectiveness of entraining signals such as light and food. (Author correspondence: ).