Design principles for phase-splitting behaviour of coupled cellular oscillators: clues from hamsters with 'split' circadian rhythms

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Neurology

Publication Date


Document Type



Animals; Biological Clocks; Circadian Rhythm; Cricetinae; Locomotion; *Models, Biological; Nonlinear Dynamics; Suprachiasmatic Nucleus


Life Sciences | Medicine and Health Sciences


Nonlinear interactions among coupled cellular oscillators are likely to underlie a variety of complex rhythmic behaviours. Here we consider the case of one such behaviour, a doubling of rhythm frequency caused by the spontaneous splitting of a population of synchronized oscillators into two subgroups each oscillating in anti-phase (phase-splitting). An example of biological phase-splitting is the frequency doubling of the circadian locomotor rhythm in hamsters housed in constant light, in which the pacemaker in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) is reconfigured with its left and right halves oscillating in anti-phase. We apply the theory of coupled phase oscillators to show that stable phase-splitting requires the presence of negative coupling terms, through delayed and/or inhibitory interactions. We also find that the inclusion of real biological constraints (that the SCN contains a finite number of non-identical noisy oscillators) implies the existence of an underlying non-uniform network architecture, in which the population of oscillators must interact through at least two types of connections. We propose that a key design principle for the frequency doubling of a population of biological oscillators is inhomogeneity of oscillator coupling.

DOI of Published Version



J R Soc Interface. 2008 Aug 6;5(25):873-83. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Journal of the Royal Society, Interface / the Royal Society

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