Chronobiology of Aging: A Mini-Review

Germaine Cornelissen, Kuniaki Otsuka

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Aging is generally associated with weakening of the circadian system. The circadian amplitude is reduced and the circadian acrophase becomes more labile, tending to occur earlier with advancing age. As originally noted by Franz Halberg, similar features are observed in the experimental laboratory after bilateral lesioning of the suprachiasmatic nuclei, suggesting the involvement of clock genes in the aging process as they are in various disease conditions. Recent work has been shedding light on underlying pathways involved in the aging process, with the promise of interventions to extend healthy life spans. Caloric restriction, which is consistently and reproducibly associated with prolonging life in different animal models, is associated with an increased circadian amplitude. These results indicate the critical importance of chronobiology in dealing with problems of aging, from the circadian clock machinery orchestrating metabolism to the development of geroprotectors. The quantitative estimation of circadian rhythm characteristics interpreted in the light of time-specified reference values helps (1) to distinguish effects of natural healthy aging from those associated with disease and predisease; (2) to detect alterations in rhythm characteristics as markers of increased risk before there is overt disease; and (3) to individually optimize by timing prophylactic and/or therapeutic interventions aimed at restoring a disturbed circadian system and/or enhancing a healthy life span. Mapping changes in amplitude and/or acrophase that may overshadow any change in average value also avoids drawing spurious conclusions resulting from data collected at a fixed clock hour. Timely risk detection combined with treatment optimization by timing (chronotherapy) is the goal of several ongoing comprehensive community- based studies focusing on the well-being of the elderly, so that longevity is not achieved at the cost of a reduced quality of life.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)118-128
Number of pages11
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 S. Karger AG, Basel.

Copyright 2017 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Aging
  • Caloric restriction
  • Chronobiology
  • Circadian rhythms
  • Clock genes
  • Metabolic pathways
  • Suprachiasmatic nuclei


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