Light shed on brain body clock


Summary

Scientists in the UK say light could be shed on the physiological changes that occur when we fly across time zones into different seasons

The scientists say they have identified a part of the brain which co-ordinates the annual biological clock that affects how we deal with seasonal change.

The research from Edinburgh University will help our understanding of seasonal affective disorder, as well as the working of the metabolic mechanisms that make us put on weight.

Dr Gerald Lincoln, of the university’s centre for reproductive biology, said: “Our daily body clock is an amazing system.

“Most of the cells in the body have their own internal clocks – whether in the liver or the brain – yet they are all co-ordinated and nicely synchronised with the outside world.

“This is done by a special pacemaker in the brain that acts as the overall conductor.”

The research focused on the longer term circannual clock that measures the seasons and works on a 10-month cycle.

Dr Lincoln said we reset our body clock every summer when increased light inhibits the production of melatonin.

“This could partly explain why the arrival of sunshine now in spring (northern hemisphere) makes us feel so much happier.”

He added that since the cells that co-ordinate our body calendar are now known, work has begun to identify the specific genes that regulate long-term timing.

“By doing this, we hope to find new clinical treatments,” he added.

“It could be beneficial to those working night shifts, who suffer poor health and have reduced life expectancy, as well as looking at how our metabolism is regulated throughout the year.

“The calendar genes could even provide new insight into the most basic timed mechanisms of DNA repair and ageing.”


Scientists in the UK say light could be shed on the physiological changes that occur when we fly across time zones into different seasons

The scientists say they have identified a part of the brain which co-ordinates the annual biological clock that affects how we deal with seasonal change.

The research from Edinburgh University will help our understanding of seasonal affective disorder, as well as the working of the metabolic mechanisms that make us put on weight.

Dr Gerald Lincoln, of the university’s centre for reproductive biology, said: “Our daily body clock is an amazing system.

“Most of the cells in the body have their own internal clocks – whether in the liver or the brain – yet they are all co-ordinated and nicely synchronised with the outside world.

“This is done by a special pacemaker in the brain that acts as the overall conductor.”

The research focused on the longer term circannual clock that measures the seasons and works on a 10-month cycle.

Dr Lincoln said we reset our body clock every summer when increased light inhibits the production of melatonin.

“This could partly explain why the arrival of sunshine now in spring (northern hemisphere) makes us feel so much happier.”

He added that since the cells that co-ordinate our body calendar are now known, work has begun to identify the specific genes that regulate long-term timing.

“By doing this, we hope to find new clinical treatments,” he added.

“It could be beneficial to those working night shifts, who suffer poor health and have reduced life expectancy, as well as looking at how our metabolism is regulated throughout the year.

“The calendar genes could even provide new insight into the most basic timed mechanisms of DNA repair and ageing.”