Endogenous and exogenous components in the circadian variation of core body temperature in humans
Core body temperature is predominantly modulated by endogenous and exogenous components. In the present study we tested whether these two components can be reliably assessed in a protocol which lasts for only 120 h. In this so-called forced desynchrony protocol, 12 healthy male subjects (age 23.7 ± 1.4 y) were subjected one by one to an artificial light/dark cycle of 20 h (10 lux vs. darkness). Core body temperature was measured continuously. The temperature data were analysed by an iterative method based on the assumption that the endogenous and exogenous components contribute to body temperature in an additive way. The results show that the average temperature curve is an almost perfect addition of the two components. The endogenous component differs from a sinusoid, and the relative contributions of the endogenous and exogenous components to the raw temperature curves differ substantially between the subjects. The average amount of unexplained variance in the individual data was 17%. Averaging of the body temperature curves over subjects reduced the unexplained variance to only 2%. This reduction in unexplained variance upon averaging over subjects must be due to the fact that most of the variance is either differently dependent on circadian phase for the various subjects or not dependent on circadian phase at all. The circadian pacemaker component revealed an average value of tau of 24.30 ± 0.36 h, which is consistent with recent findings in the literature. We conclude that a short forced desynchrony protocol is sufficient for the distinction between the masking and pacemaker components of core body temperature. The same protocol can be used to study the influence of these components on all kinds of other physiological and psychological signals.
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