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Neural Plasticity
Volume 2018, Article ID 8217345, 9 pages
Review Article

Photoperiodic Programming of the SCN and Its Role in Photoperiodic Output

1Vanderbilt Brain Institute, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN, USA
2Department of Biological Sciences, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN, USA

Correspondence should be addressed to Douglas G. McMahon; ude.tlibrednav@nohamcm.g.salguod

Received 18 September 2017; Accepted 22 November 2017; Published 9 January 2018

Academic Editor: Harry Pantazopoulos

Copyright © 2018 Michael C. Tackenberg and Douglas G. McMahon. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Though the seasonal response of organisms to changing day lengths is a phenomenon that has been scientifically reported for nearly a century, significant questions remain about how photoperiod is encoded and effected neurobiologically. In mammals, early work identified the master circadian clock, the suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN), as a tentative encoder of photoperiodic information. Here, we provide an overview of research on the SCN as a coordinator of photoperiodic responses, the intercellular coupling changes that accompany that coordination, as well as the SCN’s role in a putative brain network controlling photoperiodic input and output. Lastly, we discuss the importance of photoperiodic research in the context of tangible benefits to human health that have been realized through this research as well as challenges that remain.