Videnovic A, Lazar AS, Barker RA, Overeem S. ‘The clocks that time us’–circadian rhythms in neurodegenerative disorders. Nat Rev Neurol. 2014;10(12):683-693. doi:10.1038/nrneurol.2014.206
The publisher’s final edited version of this article is available at Nat Rev Neurol
Circadian rhythms are physiological and behavioural cycles generated by an endogenous biological clock, the suprachiasmatic nucleus. The circadian system influences the majority of physiological processes, including sleep–wake homeostasis. Impaired sleep and alertness are common symptoms of neurodegenerative disorders, and circadian dysfunction might exacerbate the disease process. The pathophysiology of sleep–wake disturbances in these disorders remains largely unknown, and is presumably multifactorial. Circadian rhythm dysfunction is often observed in patients with Alzheimer disease, in whom it has a major impact on quality of life and represents one of the most important factors leading to institutionalization of patients. Similarly, sleep and circadian problems represent common nonmotor features of Parkinson disease and Huntington disease. Clinical studies and experiments in animal models of neurodegenerative disorders have revealed the progressive nature of circadian dysfunction throughout the course of neurodegeneration, and suggest strategies for the restoration of circadian rhythmicity involving behavioural and pharmacological interventions that target the sleep–wake cycle. In this Review, we discuss the role of the circadian system in the regulation of the sleep–wake cycle, and outline the implications of disrupted circadian timekeeping in neurodegenerative diseases.