Sudden changes to our schedules, like the end of daylight saving time this Sunday or flying across time zones, often leave us feeling off kilter because they disrupt our bodies’ circadian rhythms. Circadian rhythms are physical, mental, and behavioral changes that follow a daily cycle. When these “biological clocks” are disrupted, our bodies eventually readjust. However, some people have conditions that cause their circadian rhythms to be permanently out of sync with their surroundings.Continue reading “Scientist Interview: Investigating Circadian Rhythms with Michael W. Young”
Tag: Biological Clocks
If you’re looking for ways to engage students in science this school year, NIGMS offers a range of free resources that can help. All of our STEM materials are online and print-friendly, making them easy to use for remote teaching.
Pathways , developed in collaboration with Scholastic, is aligned with STEM and ELA education standards for grades 6 through 12. Materials include:
- Student magazines with corresponding teaching guides
- Related lessons with interactives
- Vocabulary lists
Available lessons examine basic science careers, regeneration, and circadian rhythms.Continue reading “Explore Our STEM Education Resources for the New School Year”
If you’re looking for engaging ways to teach science from home, NIGMS offers a range of resources that can help.
Our Science Education and Partnership Award (SEPA) webpage features free, easy-to-access STEM and informal science education projects for pre-K through grade 12. Aligned with state and national standards for STEM teaching and learning, the program has tools such as:
- Online books
- Curricula and lesson plans
- Short movies
Students can learn about sleep, cells, growth, microbes, a healthy lifestyle, genetics, and many other subjects.Continue reading “Explore Our Virtual Learning STEM Resources”
NIGMS and Scholastic, Inc., bring you the third edition of Pathways, a collection of free resources that teaches students about basic science and its importance to health, and exciting research careers.
Pathways is designed for grades 6 through 12. The topic of this unit is circadian rhythms, the “schedules” our bodies follow over the course of a day. These rhythms influence processes like hunger and the sleep-wake cycle.Continue reading “Pathways: The Circadian Rhythms Issue”
Feeling sleepy and dazed after the switch to daylight savings time this weekend? Your internal clocks are probably a little off and need some time to adjust.
Researchers have been studying biological clocks for decades to figure out how they control circadian rhythms, the natural 24-hour pattern of physical, mental and behavioral changes that affect sleep, appetite and metabolism. Knowing more about what makes our clocks tick could help researchers develop better therapies for sleep problems, metabolic conditions and other disorders associated with mistimed internal clocks. Continue reading “Cool Image: A Circadian Circuit”
When daylight savings time ends this Sunday, we’ll need to adjust every clock in our homes, cars and offices. Our internal clocks will need to adjust too.
The body has a master clock in the brain, as well as others in nearly every tissue and organ. These biological clocks drive circadian rhythms, the physical, mental and behavioral changes we experience on a roughly 24-hour cycle. Your hunger in the morning and sleepiness at night, for example, are caused partly by clock gears in motion. These gears can get out of synch with the day-night cycle when the time changes or when we travel through time zones.
Has the “spring forward” time change left you feeling drowsy? While researchers can’t give you back your lost ZZZs, they are unraveling a long-standing mystery about sleep. Their work will advance the scientific understanding of the process and could improve ways to foster natural sleep patterns in people with sleep disorders.
Working at Massachusetts General Hospital and MIT, Christa Van Dort , Matthew Wilson and Emery Brown focused on the stage of sleep known as REM. Our most vivid dreams occur during this period, as do rapid eye movements, for which the state is named. Many scientists also believe REM is crucial for learning and memory.
REM occurs several times throughout the night, interspersed with other sleep states collectively called non-REM sleep. Although REM is clearly necessary—it occurs in all land mammals and birds—researchers don’t really know why. They also don’t understand how the brain turns REM on and off. Continue reading “Scientists Shine Light on What Triggers REM Sleep”
After you roll your clocks back by an hour this Sunday, you may feel tired. That’s because our bodies—more specifically, our circadian rhythms—need a little time to adjust. These daily cycles are run by a network of tiny, coordinated biological clocks.
NIGMS’ Mike Sesma tracks circadian rhythm research being conducted in labs across the country, and he shares a few timely details about our internal clocks:
1. They’re incredibly intricate.
Biological clocks are composed of genes and proteins that operate in a feedback loop. Clock genes contain instructions for making clock proteins, whose levels rise and fall in a regular cyclic pattern. This pattern in turn regulates the activity of the genes. Many of the results from circadian rhythm research this year have uncovered more parts of the molecular machinery that fine-tune the clock. Earlier in the month, we blogged about an RNA molecule that cues the internal clock.
2. Every organism has them—from algae to zebras.
Many of the clock genes and proteins are similar across species, allowing researchers to make important findings about human circadian processes by studying the clock components of organisms like fruit flies, bread mold and plants.
3. Whether we’re awake or asleep, our clocks keep ticking.
While they might get temporarily thrown off by changes in light or temperature, our clocks usually can reset themselves.
4. Nearly everything about how our body works is tied to biological clocks.
Our clocks influence alertness, hunger, metabolism, fertility, mood and other physiological conditions. For this reason, clock dysfunction is associated with various disorders, including insomnia, diabetes and depression. Even drug efficacy has been linked to our clocks: Studies have shown that some drugs might be more effective if given earlier in the day.
Circadian Rhythms Fact Sheet
Our internal clocks tell us when to sleep and when to eat. Because they are sensitive to changes in daytime and nighttime cues, they can get thrown off by activities like traveling across time zones or working the late shift. Dysfunction in our internal clocks may lead to insufficient sleep, which has been linked to an increased risk for chronic diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes, depression and cancer.
Researchers led by Yi Liu of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center have uncovered a previously unknown mechanism by which internal clocks run and are tuned to light cues. Using the model organism Neurospora crassa (a.k.a., bread mold), the scientists identified a type of RNA molecule called long non-coding RNA (lncRNA) that helps wind the internal clock by regulating how genes are expressed. When it’s produced, the lncRNA identified by Liu and his colleagues blocks a gene that makes a specific clock protein.
This inhibition works the other way, too: The production of the clock protein blocks the production of the lncRNA. This rhythmic gene expression helps the body stay tuned to whether it’s day or night.
The researchers suggest that a similar mechanism likely exists in the internal clocks of other organisms, including mammals. They also think that lncRNA-protein pairs may contribute to the regulation of other biologic processes.
Springing clocks forward by an hour this Sunday, traveling across time zones, staring at a computer screen late at night or working the third shift are just a few examples of activities that can disrupt our daily, or circadian, rhythms. These roughly 24-hour cycles influence our physiology and behavior, and they’re driven by our body’s network of tiny timekeepers. If our daily routines fall out of sync with our body clocks, sleep, metabolic and other disorders can result.
Researchers funded by the National Institutes of Health have spent decades piecing together the molecular mechanisms of our biological clocks. Now, they’re building on that basic knowledge to better understand the intricate relationship among these clocks, circadian rhythms and physiology—and ultimately, find ways to manipulate the moving parts to improve our modern-day lives.
Continue reading this new Inside Life Science article