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studies conducted with human participants have shown that differences in chronotype, defined as individual patterns of early or late beginning of daily activity, have implications for many biobehavioral processes, such as cognitive performance, mood, impulsivity, academic achievement of college students, and mental health. However, the determinants of individual variation in chronotype have not been investigated. Basic research on circadian rhythms has provided a basis for investigating the causes of chronotype variation, but experimental tests of pertinent hypotheses are difficult to conduct with human subjects. This limitation can be overcome by use of animal models. This study was conducted with a rodent species, the antelope ground squirrel (Ammospermophilus leucurus), that, like humans, is active during the daytime, exhibits a spread of chronotypes, and has a similar average free-running circadian period. We found chronotype to be a stable trait within individuals based on strong consistency of separate determinations made six months apart (correlation r = 0.91). We also found a moderate correlation of chronotype with the duration of the active phase (r = -0.51) and with free running period (r = 0.34), but weak correlation with rhythm robustness (r = 0.16), and no correlation with photic responsiveness or with masking responses. The best multiple regression model, incorporating the duration of the active phase, free-running period, and rhythm robustness, explained 38% of the variance in chronotype. Although 62% of the variance in chronotype remained unaccounted for, the results are encouraging because they document the possibility of using a diurnal rodent as a model for the investigation of the determinants of chronotype variation in humans.

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This is an author-produced, peer-reviewed version of this article. © 2019, Elsevier. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-No Derivatives 4.0 license. The final, definitive version of this document can be found online at Physiology & Behavior, doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2018.11.019