, Volume 170, Issue 2, pp 181-187

Social stimuli fail to act as entraining agents of circadian rhythms in the golden hamster

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The ability of social stimuli to act as entraining agents of circadian rhythms was investigated in golden hamsters (Mesocricetus auratus). In a first experiment, pairs of male hamsters (one of them enucleated and the other intact) were maintained under a light-dark (LD) cycle with a period of 23.3 h. Running-wheel activity was recorded to determine the effect of social interaction on the free-running circadian rhythm of activity. In several pairs, general activity and body temperature were also recorded. In all pairs the intact animals entrained to the LD cycle, whereas the activity rhythms of the enucleated animals free-ran with periods of approximately 24 h and showed no apparent sign of synchronization or relative coordination with the other member of the pair. In a second experiment, male hamsters maintained in constant darkness received pulses of social interaction, which have been reported to induce phase shifts of the activity rhythm. Consistent phase shifts in the running-wheel activity rhythm were not induced by the social pulses in our experiment. These results suggest strongly that social stimuli are not effective entraining agents of circadian rhythms in the golden hamster.