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THE ROLE OF EXOGENOUS

ZEITGEIBERS
A01
Light
Light is the most dominant zeitgeibers and has been found
to reset the bodys main pacemaker-the suprachiasmatic
nucleus as well as other oscillators located throughout the
body. This is because the protein CRY which is part of the
SCN is light sensitive.

Social cues
It was originally thought by biologists that social cues were
the main zeitgeiber for circadian rhythm as our daily rhythm
appeared to be dictated by social convention. We would eat
at meal times, go to sleep and wakeup at designated
appropriate by our age and social factors. Although light has
been found to be the main zeitgeibers, other cells have been
found to react to social cues such as meal times. For
example cells in the liver appear to be reset by eating
highlighting the role the environment and nurture plays
rather than some innate biological programming-nature.

Temperature
Temperature has also found to be an exogenous zeitgeiber.
An example of this is when trees see their leaves changing
colour and fall off as they react to temperature around them
or the length of day. Temperature is also important factor in
animals that hibernate due to the absence of light;
temperature may become the dominant zeitgeiber that
resets biological clocks. Another example is seen in coldblooded animals of which temperature can aff ect the
circadian rhythm, of which periods of low temperature
signals a time for reduced activity, whilst warm temperature
is the time for activity (sleep-cycle).

A02
Campbell et al found evidence to support that light did in
fact act as an exogenous zeitgeiber. 15 volunteers agreed to
sleep in a laboratory and were woken at separate times with
light shone at the backs of their knees. This was found to
shift the circadian rhythms highlighting the role light plays
but also shows how the protein CRY reacts to light and
resets biological rhythms. This shows that humans do not
solely rely on light to penetrate the eyes and blood may also
be carrying light signals from skin to the brain. Simplifying
such an explanation through light is a reductionist as
evidently more complex mechanisms are at works which are
not fully understood. Although we have established the
existence of the role of light in resetting biological rhythms,
the importance of it is still unclear.
Folkard et al tested whether exogenous could override
biological clocks. A group of 12 people lived in a cave for 3
months without natural light or other time cues and agreed
to go to sleep and wake up at set times by a dictated clock.
Unknown to the participants the clock sped up gradually and
initially participants rhythm matched the clock. However
this only occurred to an extent as their biological clocks
stopped following it and settled to a 24hr circadian rhythm,
highlighting that circadian rhythms can be infl uenced by a
certain extent to exogenous zeitgeiber and the strong role of
nature and biological programming in overriding nurture and
the environment. The criticism of this study is that they used
a small sample size therefore it is diffi cult to generalise
fi ndings to a wider population and may lack external validity.
Also participants were aware of being in an experiment
therefore demand characteristics would have been possible.
Also, as it was a lab experiment it may lack ecological
validity and may not be indicative of real world settings.
However, strength of this lab experiment is it allows
researchers to identify causal relationships between external
cues and biological rhythms.
Siff re et al stayed in a cave for 6 months to measure how
biological rhythms are aff ected by a lack of exogenous
zeitgeibers. Results found that his sleep/wake cycle was 2530hrs. This study supported that exogenous zeitgeibers play
a role in keeping endogenous pacemakers synchronised.

However, this was a single case study based on a single


individual and may not be generalisable to a wider
population due to individual diff erences, such as age. Also,
there may be gender bias here as it doesnt show how
females are aff ected by external cues as other research has
found that males and females are aff ected by diff erent
external cues e.g. hormones.