Glossar

Acrophase
Phase angle corresponding to the maximal value of the rhythmic parameter studied.

Action spectrum
Spectral sensitivity for an effect triggered by light. The action spectrum for the sensitivity of the eye is the V(lambda) curve. The c(lamda) function proposed by Prof. Gall corresponds aprox. to the action of spectrum for night-time melatonin suppression by light.

Advanced Sleep Phase Syndrome
This is a condition in which a patient wakes up too early in the morning and gets sleepy early in the evening. It is common in older people.

Amplitude
The measure of one half of the extent of the rhythmic change estimated by the mathematical model (e.g., cosine curve) best fitting to the data (e.g., the difference between the maximum and the rhythm-adjusted mean of the best fitting curve).

Biological clock
Self-sustained oscillators which generate biologic rhythms in absence of external periodic input (e. g., at the gene level in individual cells).

Biological rhythm
A cyclical, repeated variation in a biological function.

Blue light hazard
Irreversible photochemical damage of photoreceptors in the eye by high radiances of short wave optical radiation (UV- ca. 500nm).

Brain waves
Electrical signals sent in the brain. They can be detected by electrodes placed on the scalp. Examples of brain waves: alpha waves with a frequency of 8-13 cycles per second that are produced when a person is relaxed but awake; beta waves with a frequency of greater than 12 cycles per second that are produced when a person is awake and alert; theta waves with a frequency of 4-7 cycles per second that are produced during light sleep; delta waves with a high amplitude and a frequency of less than 4 cycles per second that are produced during deep sleep.

Bright-light therapy
The use of bright lights (>1000 lux) for certain periods of time at a certain time of day to reset one’s biological clock.

Candela (Cd). The unit of luminous intensity 1 cd= 1 lm/sr. A candle has typically 1 cd, an incandescent lamp ca. 100 cd, the sun has ca. 3*10^27 cd.

Chronobiology
The science of investigating and objectively quantifying phenomena and mechanisms of the biologic time structure, including the rhythmic manifestations of life. Term derived from: Chronos (time), bios (life), and logos (science).

Chronobiotic
An agent capable of influencing biologic rhythm parameters (e.g., the phase setting).

Chronopathology
Changes in an individual’s biologic time structure preceding, coincident or following functional disorders or organic disease and/or time-dependent manifestation of disease.

Chronotherapy
Use of treatment timed according to the stages in the sensitivity-resistance cycles of target (or non target) tissues and organs (or of the organism as a whole) to enhance the desired pharmacologic effect and/or reduce undesirable side effects of drugs or other therapeutic agents.

Circalunar
Circa-rhythm with a naturally synchronized period of the lunar cycle.

Circa-rhythms
Internal rhythms, free running in constant conditions with a period slightly deviating from the environmental cycle, by which they are synchronized in nature (in contrast to non circa-rhythms).

Circadian rhythm
Circa-rhythm of metabolic, physiological or behavioral processes with a naturally synchronized period of 24 hours (the term ‘circadian’ is derived from the Latin circa meaning about and diem meaning day).

Circatidal
Biological rhythms with a naturally synchronized period of the prevailing tidal cycle (periods of 12.4h, 25.8h or otherwise).

Circatrigintan
A rhythm with a period of about 30 (±5) days. Includes, in mature women during the time of ovarian activity, the menstrual cycle. The term is preferred to the term „menstrual“ because rhythms of this frequency are found in premenstrual girls, postmenopausal women and in men.

Color temperature
Unit: Kelvin (K). Color of a light source, corresponding to the color of black body at that temperature. Color temperature is usually only given for lamps that are more or less „white“, that means with color coordinates close to the black body curve.

Crepuscular
Events occurring twice a day, i.e. at dawn and dusk.

Clock
Timing mechanism, in which the parameter studied, is not involved in the causal loop (in contrast to hourglass).

Cycle
Recurrence of events, without necessarily being of periodic nature (in contrast to rhythm).

Cortisol
Cortisol (hydrocortisone) is a steroid hormone synthesized and released by the adrenal cortex of the adrenal glands; it is important for normal carbohydrate metabolism and response to stress.

Crepuscular activity
An activity mainly performed at dusk and/or dawn.

Critical photoperiod
That 24h LD ratio at which 50% of the population under study is photoperiodically switched from one state to another, e.g. into flowering from non-flowering, or into development from diapause.

Dawn simulation
Mimicking of the slow increase in natural light before and during sunrise with artificial lighting.

Deep sleep
Stages 3 and 4 of NREM sleep during which delta waves are produced.

Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome
This is a condition in which a patient doesn’t get sleepy until early in the morning the next day and sleeps late into the morning. It is common in older teens.

Desynchronization
State of two or more previously synchronized rhythmic variables that have ceased to exhibit the same frequency and/or the same acrophase relationships and show different than usual and/or changing time relations.

Diapause
A period of arrested growth or reduced physiological activity, commonly induced by a seasonal change in photoperiod (i.e. day-length); a term used mainly for invertebrates, especially insects.

Diurnal
Activity or event occurring in the day between dawn and dusk.

Dormancy
A state of non activity during which sleep brain waves cannot be detected.

Electroencephalogram (EEG)
A measurement of brain wave activity. This data is collected through sensors on the scalp.

Electromyogram (EMG)
A measurement of muscle tension. The data is collected through sensors.

Electrooculogram (EOG)
A measurement of eye movement. This data is collected through sensors.

Endogenous rhythm
An oscillating system capable of self sustained oscillations.

Entrainment
Coupling of an endogenous rhythm to an environmental oscillator with the result that both oscillations have the same frequency. In contrast to masking, the phase of the endogenous rhythm is affected by entrainment.

Exogenous rhythm
An oscillating system not capable of self sustained oscillations, but passively driven by external factors.

External desynchronization
Desynchronization of a biologic rhythm from an environmental cycle.

Free-running
Frequency manifestation of self sustained oscillations, with a periodicity deviating from (eventual) Zeitgebers.

Frequency (f)
The number of cycles occurring per time unit; f is the reciprocal of the period (t).

Frequency ranges
Groups of frequencies (or periods) frequently encountered in biologic rhythms. (Circadian frequency range: rhythm with periods of about one day, i. e., by definition > 20 to < 28 h).

Hibernation
Winter or cold season dormancy.

Hourglass
Timing mechanism, in which the parameter studied is part of the causal loop (in contrast to clock).

Hypothalamus
A small brain structure at the base of the diencephalon. The structure is involved in functions including homeostasis, emotion, thirst, hunger, circadian rhythms, and control of the autonomic nervous system.

Infradian rhythm
Non circa-rhythm with a period longer than 24 hours.

Internal desynchronization
State in which two or more previously synchronized variables within the same organism have ceased to exhibit the same frequency and/or the same acrophase relationships and show different than usual and/or changing time relations.

Jet lag
Desynchronization and its clinical effect after rapid movement over several time zones (after movements over time zones, e.g. transmeridian flights).

Lighting regime
The light-dark cycle (LD; i.e. 12h light and 12h darkness), or constant light (LL), or constant dark (DD) conditions used for chronobiologic studies.

Longitudinal sampling
Study of the same subject or of a group of subjects over numerous cycles.

Masking effect
Overruling of the expression of endogenous rhythm by random or nonrandom environmental stimuli only temporarily, without affecting the phase of that rhythm (in contrast to entrainment).

Melatonin
A hormone produced rhythmically in vertebrates by the pineal gland, a pea sized organ at the center of the human brain.

Nocturnal
Activity or event occurring in the night between dusk and dawn.

Non circa-rhythms
Endogenous rhythms with periods that have no counterpart in the natural environment, but are characterized by allometric relationships (in contrast to circa-rhythms).

Non-Rapid Eye Movement Sleep (NREM)
A type of sleep that is divided into four stages. Usually about 75% of the night is spent in NREM Sleep.

Nycthemeral
Activity or event occurring on a 24h basis (i.e. daily).

Oscillator
Mechanism leading to the manifestation of a rhythmic phenomenon (oscillation), that either is self sustained (pacemaker), or depends on another oscillator (passive or slave-oscillator), or is characterized by a decrease in amplitude (damped oscillator).

Pacemaker
A functional entity capable of self-sustaining oscillations.

Peak
The highest point in a series of measurements obtained as a function of time.

Period
Time after which a defined phase of the oscillation re-occurs.

Phase
Instantaneous state of an oscillation within a period (reference point).

Phase advance
Shortening of period for one to a few cycles (denoted by a plus sign).

Phase angle
Position of a parameter value relative to the period, expressed in fraction of the period or in time, if the length of period is known.

Phase angle difference
Difference in position between two phase-angles in two coupled oscillations.

Phase delay
Lengthening of period for one to a few cycles (denoted by a minus sign).

Phase reference
Time point chosen by the investigator as reference for the estimation of the timing of a rhythm.

Phase-response curve (PRC)
The 24h profile of an organism’s phase shifts in response to environmental signals.

Phase shift
Displacement of an oscillation along the time axis (see phase advance and phase delay).

Photoperiod
In a light-dark regimen the duration of the light span.

Photoperiodism
The seasonal day-length responses that cause altered physiological states such as flowering or non-flowering for example.

Rapid Eye Movement Sleep (REM)
A type of sleep during which the body is paralyzed and the eyes move. Dreaming occurs during this sleep.

Range of entrainment
Range of frequencies within which a self sustained oscillation can be entrained by a Zeitgeber.

Refractoriness
Temporal insensitivity to a Zeitgeber.

Rhythm
Periodic recurrence of events; not synonymous with cycle.

Scotoperiod
In a light-dark regimen the duration of the dark span.

Serotonin
A neurotransmitter that affects how alert one is.

Shift work
Transient or permanent change in work schedule in relation to the social surroundings.

Slow-wave sleep
Stages 3 and 4 of NREM sleep, during which the brain waves are large and slow. These are usually the deeper stages of sleep.

Suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN)
Group of neurons situated above the optic chiasm in the vertebrate hypothalamus exhibiting an endogenous circadian oscillation acting as circadian pacemaker, receiving external phase information via the retina.

Synchronization
State in which two or more oscillations have the same frequency due to mutual or unilateral influences (referring both to entrainment and to masking).

Transverse sampling
Sampling of a group of subjects over one cycle of a rhythm.

Tau
The ‘natural’ period of a biological rhythm free-running in constant conditions.

Temperature coefficient (Q10)
It is defined as the change in the rate of a process as a result of increasing the temperature by 10°C. For most physiological reactions the value is close to 2 as increasing the temperature has a large effect on the reaction rate. For biological clocks the value is about 1 because they are temperature compensated.

Temperature compensation
The phenomenon exhibited by biological clocks that results in them not responding to different ambient temperatures in a way that would be expected according to normal physiological Q10 principles. In simple terms Biological Clocks are not effected by different temperatures, whereas other physiological systems are.

Thermoperiod
Temperature cycle.

Trough
The lowest point in a series of measurements obtained as a function of time.

Ultradian rhythm
Non circa-rhythm with a period less than 24 hours.

Zeitgeber
From the German for meaning „time giver“. A periodic environmental signal that entrains some biological rhythm, for example light, temperature, or social Zeitgebers. It is important to understand that the „Zeitgeber“ does not induce a rhythm but determines its arrangement in time.