clocks in news

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Articles curated by Prof. Stu Brody and Dr. Anna Kriebs
Write-ups produced by Dr. Anna Kriebs

 


Los Angeles Times, Feb 2017

Reset Your Circadian Clock by Going Camping

The expression “to go to bed with the chickens” refers to a time when people’s sleep wake cycle was dictated by the natural day. In modern society this is no longer the case. We often stay up long after dusk, since we don’t have to rely on natural light to do our work. As a consequence our biological night, as defined by elevated levels of the sleep hormone melatonin, begins long after dark. Therefore, when it is time to rise in the morning melatonin levels may still be high, making getting out of bed a challenge. The team of Prof. Kenneth Wright from the University of Colorado, Boulder, reports that camping might help. Their unique study, published in the journal Current Biology and featured in this Los Angles Times article, shows that a weekend camping trip in the Rocky Mountains, away from electric lighting, was sufficient to shift the melatonin profile of campers more than an hour earlier compared with the control group that stayed home. Additionally, the researchers showed that the melatonin profiles mirror seasonal changes in day length. Therefore, maximizing light exposure during the day as well as minimizing it during the night is key to changing sleep patterns

Read about this study here:
LA Times article:
http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-camping-better-sleep-20170202-story.html

Original article:
http://www.cell.com/current-biology/fulltext/S0960-9822(16)31522-6

 


Los Angeles Times, Aug 2016

The Sunflower Circadian Clock: A Head Turner

Plants are often perceived as immobile. However, circadian biologists, dating back to the French scientist Jean-Jaques de Mairan in the 1700(s), knew that plants show daily rhythms of movement. More recently, in an elegant study, the team of Prof. Stacey Harmer from UC Davis, a CCB Associate member, showed that the east to west rotation of young sunflower plants over the course of the day is controlled by an internal circadian clock and helped the young flowers to grow bigger than their sibling plants whose movement was impeded. While young sunflowers rotated their heads to follow the sun, this behavior stopped in adult sunflowers, which faced perpetually east. Adult flowers have evolved to face the rising sun because the warmth helps them to attract pollinators. This study was published in the journal Science and featured in the Los Angles Times in August of 2016.

Read about this study here:
LA Times article:
http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-sunflowers-direction-20160804-snap-story.html

Original article:
http://science.sciencemag.org/content/353/6299/587

 


Chicago Tonight, Apr 2017

Dreams of Sounds that Enhance Memory

Anecdotally, a good night’s sleep is one of the most frequently prescribed remedies. In fact, sleep is crucial for physical and mental well-being. Among other things, memories are solidified during sleep. As both sleep and memory change over the course of a lifetime, researchers are exploring the interconnection between sleep, memory, and aging. Scientists at Northwestern University Medical School focused on decreasing slow wave activity, a sleep stage associated with the ability to recall factual information and experiences, in adults 60 years and older. The team of CCB advisory board member Prof. Phyllis Zee reports that sound stimulation during certain parts of the slow wave activity improved test subjects’ performance in memory tests the next day. This exciting new finding could lead to easy, non-invasive interventions to prevent age-related memory decline.

Read about this study here:
WTTW (Chicago PBS):
http://chicagotonight.wttw.com/2017/03/08/study-waterfall-sounds-enhance-deep-sleep-memory-older-adults

Original article:
http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fnhum.2017.00109/full

 


Cell, Apr 2017

Night Owl Genetics

The recommendation: “Early to bed, and early to rise” is not for everyone. Preference for sleep timing, or chronotype, is determined by the circadian clock. Roughly, there are morning larks and night owls. Chronotype can determine compatibility with certain social schedules and extreme chronotypes can be very disruptive to the regular day-to-day. Recently, researchers at Rockefeller University discovered the genetic underpinnings of a slow circadian clock that caused delayed sleep phase disorder (DSPD). The study from the laboratory of Prof. Michael Young, a member of the CCB advisory board, lead by Dr. Alina Patke linked the disorder to a variant of the CRY1 gene, a component of the mammalian circadian clock. The resulting protein product was missing a small portion in the C-terminal tail. This shorter CRY1 turned out to be a more potent version of the full length form effectively slowing down circadian time. While there are currently no treatment options targeting CRY1 this finding is still highly relevant and could encourage development of the same since this gene variant is likely present in one out of 75 individuals.

Read about this study here:
CBC News
http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/night-owl-gene-1.4069398

NBC News
http://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/gene-mutation-affects-sleep-turning-people-martians-n743526

Live Science
https://www.livescience.com/58573-delayed-sleep-phase-disorder-linked-to-gene-mutation.html

Original article:
http://www.cell.com/cell/pdf/S0092-8674(17)30346-X.pdf