Scientists unlocked a cure for jet lag in mice by activating a small subset of the neurons involved in setting daily rhythms. The mammalian suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) functions as a master circadian pacemaker, integrating environmental input to align physiological and behavioral rhythms to local time cues. The study was published in the journal Neuron.
Approximately 10% of SCN neurons express vasoactive intestinal polypeptide (VIP); however, it is unknown how the firing activity of VIP neurons releases VIP to entrain circadian rhythms. To identify physiologically relevant firing patterns, they optically tagged VIP neurons and characterized spontaneous firing over 3 days. VIP neurons had circadian rhythms in firing rate and exhibited two classes of instantaneous firing activity.