Chapter 14. Biological Rhythms, Sleep, and Dreaming
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By James Gallagher Health and science reporter, BBC News website Toddlers who spend time playing on smartphones and tablets seem to get slightly less sleep than those who do not, say researchers. The study in Scientific Reports suggests every hour spent using a touchscreen each day was linked to 15 minutes less sleep. However, those playing with touchscreens do develop their fine motor skills more quickly. Experts said the study was "timely" but parents should not lose sleep over it. There has been an explosion in touchscreens in the home, but understanding their impact on early childhood development has been lacking. The study by Birkbeck, University of London, questioned 715 parents of children under three years old. It asked how often their child played with a smartphone or tablet and about the child's sleep patterns. It showed that 75% of the toddlers used a touchscreen on a daily basis, with 51% of those between six and 11 months using one, and 92% of those between 25 and 36 months doing so as well. But children who did play with touchscreens slept less at night and more in the day. Overall they had around 15 minutes less sleep for every hour of touchscreen use. Not before bedtime? Dr Tim Smith, one of the researchers, told the BBC News website: "It isn't a massive amount when you're sleeping 10-12 hours a day in total, but every minute matters in young development because of the benefits of sleep." © 2017 BBC.
Link ID: 23491 - Posted: 04.14.2017
By Jyoti Madhusoodanan For three consecutive winters, starting in 2011, researchers at the University of Birmingham asked healthy men and women over the age of 65 to come in to clinics across the western Midlands in the U.K. for a seasonal influenza vaccination at specific times of day—either between 9 and 11 a.m., or between 3 and 5 p.m. Blood drawn a month later revealed that participants, who totaled nearly 300 over the three years, had higher levels of anti-flu antibodies if they’d received their vaccinations in the morning.1 The results suggested that daily rhythms of people’s bodies tweaked the vaccine’s effectiveness. Lead author Anna Phillips Whittaker had suspected as much, after observing similar trends in her studies on behavioral factors such as exercise that affect vaccination responses, and in the wake of a growing body of literature suggesting that a little timing can go a long way when it comes to health. Many hormones and immune signals are produced rhythmically in 24-hour cycles. Cortisol, for example, which is known to suppress inflammation and regulate certain T cell–mediated immune responses, peaks early in the morning and ebbs as the day progresses. Other facets of the immune system undergo similar cycles that could underlie the differences in antibody responses Phillips observed among people receiving the flu vaccine. Much more work is required to nail down the immune mechanisms responsible for such variation and exploit them appropriately, she says. But timing flu vaccine delivery would be straightforward to implement. “It’s such a simple, low-risk intervention that’s free to do, and could have massive implications for vulnerable populations.” © 1986-2017 The Scientist
Keyword: Biological Rhythms
Link ID: 23484 - Posted: 04.13.2017
Nicola Davis Scientists have unpicked the regions of the brain involved in dreaming, in a study with significant implications for our understanding of the purpose of dreams and of consciousness itself. What’s more, changes in brain activity have been found to offer clues as to what the dream is about. Dreaming had long been thought to occur largely during rapid eye-movement (REM) sleep, a period of slumber involving fast brain activity similar to that when awake, but dreams have also been reported to occur during non-REM sleep, leaving scientists scratching their heads as to the hallmark of dreaming. “It seemed a mystery that you can have both dreaming and the absence of dreaming in these two different types of stages,” said Francesca Siclari, co-author of the research from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the US. Now it seems the puzzle has been solved. In addition the team found that dreaming about faces was linked to increased high-frequency activity in the region of the brain involved in face recognition, with dreams involving spatial perception, movement and thinking similarly linked to regions of the brain that handle such tasks when awake. “[It is] a proof for the fact that dreaming really is an experience that occurs during sleep, because many researchers up until now have suggested that it is just something you invent when you wake up,” said Siclari.
Link ID: 23476 - Posted: 04.11.2017
Robin McKie Sleep is that golden chain that ties health and our bodies together. Thus wrote the English playwright Thomas Dekker in the 16th century, reflecting a view that has persisted through the centuries. Sleep is crucial to our wellbeing. Disturb it and you will find your constitution troubled and twisted out of joint. It is a view supported by science. Experiments in which men and women have endured periods of up to 11 days without shut-eye have shown that if we cannot sleep we develop increasingly severe symptoms: progressive decreases in concentration, perception and other higher mental processes. Intriguingly, these problems vanish once subjects are allowed a couple of nights curled up in their beds in a state of blissful unconsciousness. Just why we need sleep has been more difficult to answer. Freud argued that sleep allows us to have dreams in which we can act out wishes that are too disturbing to contemplate while awake. Others have maintained that sleep is a leftover from our stone age past, when it would have been dangerous to blunder around in the night at the mercy of nocturnal carnivores. So we evolved the habit of sleep to keep us safe, sound and unconscious in our caves. More recently, scientists have argued that sleep is involved in helping our bodies to recover from the vicissitudes of the day and for our brains to process the experiences of the previous 12 hours. All these theories have their proponents and opponents – for scientists are certainly far from reaching an agreement about the biological causes of sleep. However, a couple of papers published last week suggest there may be new avenues for researchers to explore so that they can learn how sleep works and why animals need it so badly.
By PENELOPE GREEN At M.I.T.’s Media Lab, the digital futurist playground, David Rose is investigating swaddling, bedtime stories and hammocks, as well as lavender oil and cocoons. Mr. Rose, a researcher, an inventor-entrepreneur and the author of “Enchanted Objects: Design, Human Desire and the Internet of Things,” and his colleagues have been road-testing weighted blankets to induce a swaddling sensation and listening to recordings of Icelandic fairy tales — all research into an ideal sleep environment that may culminate in a nap pod, or, as he said, “some new furniture form.” “For me, it’s a swinging bed on a screened porch in northwestern Wisconsin,” he said. “You can hear the loons and the wind through the fir trees, and there’s the weight of 10 blankets on top of me because it’s a cold night. We’re trying a bunch of interventions.” Meanwhile, at the University of California, Berkeley, Matthew P. Walker, a professor of neuroscience and psychology and the director of the Sleep and Neuroimaging Laboratory there, is working on direct current stimulation as a cure for sleeplessness in the aging brain. Dr. Walker is also sifting through the millions of hours of human sleep data he has received from Sense, a delicately lovely polycarbonate globe designed to look like the National Stadium in Beijing that measures air quality and other intangibles in your bedroom, then suggests tweaks to help you sleep better. “I’ve got a mission,” he said. “I want to reunite humanity with the sleep it is so bereft of.” Sense is the first product made by Hello Inc., a technology company started by James Proud, a British entrepreneur, for which Dr. Walker is the chief scientist. In Paris, Hugo Mercier, a computer science engineer, has invested in sound waves. He has raised over $10 million to create a headband that uses them to induce sleep. The product, called Dreem, has been beta-tested on 500 people (out of a pool of 6,500 applicants, Mr. Mercier said) and will be ready for sale this summer. © 2017 The New York Times Company
Link ID: 23467 - Posted: 04.08.2017
By PENELOPE GREEN I’m exhausted. Aren’t you? For an article about how Silicon Valley and other innovators have taken on the challenge of sleeplessness, a $32 billion market once populated mostly by mattress and pharmaceutical companies, I tested but a few of the many hundreds of gadgets, apps, podcasts and other inventions now devoted to a good night’s sleep. As the gizmos grow more elaborate, imbued by ever more exotic technologies, they are creating a ruckus in our bedrooms, and sleep experts advocate a simpler approach. Here are a few of their tips (and a gizmo or two): Have someone read to you “Sleep With Me,” a wildly popular podcast by Drew Ackerman, a gravelly voiced librarian who tells excruciatingly boring bedtime stories, has millions of fans, but it makes me anxious. Mr. Rose and his colleagues stumbled upon recordings of Icelandic folk tales, which they found incomprehensible, of course, and therefore more soothing and soporific. Take a bath Arianna Huffington, author of “The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time,” suggests following the bedtime rituals we gave our children. “You didn’t just throw your baby in bed,” she said. “There was a transition. A hot bath makes it easier for you to wash away the day.” Tuck in with a weighted blanket At M.I.T.’s Media Lab, the researcher David Rose and his colleagues are investigating what makes an ideal sleep environment. To evoke the feeling of many blankets on a cold night, Mr. Rose turned to the weighted blankets used as sensory therapy for autistic children. © 2017 The New York Times Company
Link ID: 23466 - Posted: 04.08.2017
A gene variant may explain why some people prefer to stay up late and hate early mornings. The variant is a mutated form of the CRY1 gene, known to play a role in the circadian clock. Michael Young, at The Rockerfeller University, New York, and his team discovered the mutation in a person diagnosed with delayed sleep phase disorder – a condition that describes many so-called “night-owls”. The team found that five of this person’s relatives also had this mutation, all of whom had a history of sleep problems. They then studied six families in Turkey whose members included 39 carriers of the CRY1 variant. The sleep periods of those with the mutation was shifted by 2 to 4 hours, and some had broken, irregular sleep patterns. The mutation seems to slow the body’s internal biological clock, causing people to have a longer circadian cycle and making them stay awake later. The team have calculated that the variant may be present in as many as one in 75 people in some populations, such as Europeans of non-Finnish descent. But those who have a longer circadian cycle need not despair. Young says many people with delayed sleep phase disorder are able to control their sleep cycles by sticking to strict schedules. “It’s a bit like cigarette smoking in that there are things we can do to help the problem before turning to drugs,” he says. Journal reference: Cell, DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2017.03.027 © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.
By Jyoti Madhusoodanan The human body undergoes daily cycles in gene expression, protein levels, enzymatic activity, and overall function. Light is the strongest regulator of the central circadian rhythm. When light strikes a mammal’s eyes, it triggers an electrical impulse that activates neurons in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), the seat of the brain’s timekeeping machinery. The SCN sets the pace for neuronal and hormonal signals that regulate body temperature, feeding behavior, rest or activity, immune cell functions, and other daily activities, which in combination with direct signals from the SCN keep the body’s peripheral organs ticking in synchrony. Sunlight reaches the eyes, controls the central clock in the brain. The brain, in turn, controls different physiological processes, such as body temperature and rest-activity cycles, which then affect metabolites, hormones, the sympathetic nervous system, and other biological signals. These processes ensure that the different organ systems of the body cycle together. Timing Treatments to the Clock Regulated by peripheral clocks and interactions with other organs, many metabolic pathways in the body peak and ebb in specific circadian patterns. As a result, drugs targeting these pathways can work better when taken at particular times of day. Here are a few examples. © 1986-2017 The Scientist
Keyword: Biological Rhythms
Link ID: 23458 - Posted: 04.07.2017
SAN FRANCISCO — The nose knows when you’re tired. Sleep deprivation seems to increase the brain’s sensitivity to food smells, researchers reported March 27 at the Cognitive Neuroscience Society’s annual meeting in San Francisco. That might make snacks more enticing — helping explain why people who burn the candle at both ends tend to eat more and gain weight. Adults operating on only four hours of sleep inhaled food odors such as those from potato chips and cinnamon rolls, and nonfood smells like fir trees while undergoing functional MRI scans. (The scientists carefully controlled participants’ food intake throughout the day.) A few weeks later, the same participants repeated the experiment — this time with a full eight hours of sleep. When tired, participants showed greater brain activity in two areas involved in olfaction — the piriform cortex and the orbitofrontal cortex — in response to food smells than they did when well rested. That spike wasn’t seen in response to nonfood odors, says study coauthor Surabhi Bhutani, of the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. Though preliminary, the results fit with previous research showing a link between sleep deprivation and both excessive calorie consumption and weight gain (SN: 8/24/13, p. 18). |© Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2017
Katherine Whalley The mammalian suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) can autonomously generate circadian oscillations in gene expression and neuronal activity, enabling it to fulfil its role as the brain's 'master circadian clock'. Although the contributions of specific neuronal populations to SCN function have begun to be elucidated, the potential influences of SCN astrocytes are relatively unexplored. Brancaccio et al. now reveal an important role for astrocyte–neuron signalling in SCN timekeeping. SCN neurons exhibit circadian oscillations in their intracellular calcium level ([Ca2+]i), peaking during the circadian 'day'. To determine whether similar fluctuations in activity are observed in astrocytes, the authors expressed a genetically encoded reporter of astrocytic [Ca2+]i in organotypic SCN slices. Long-term imaging revealed the presence of circadian oscillations in astrocytic [Ca2+]i, which was at its highest during the circadian 'night' and thus was anti-phasic to that of neurons. Astrocytes release 'gliotransmitters', including glutamate, in response to an increase in [Ca2+]i. When the authors expressed a genetically encoded sensor of the extracellular glutamate concentration ([Glu]e) in SCN slices, they observed circadian oscillations in [Glu]e that were in phase with astrocytic [Ca2+]i. oscillations. That astrocytes were the source of the measured [Glu]e was supported by the fact that the pharmacological inhibition of astrocytic glutamate catabolism or the genetic ablation of astrocytes, respectively, increased or reduced [Glu]e. © 2017 Macmillan Publishers Limited,
By STEPH YIN For animals that hibernate, making it to spring is no small feat. Torpor — the state of reduced bodily activity that occurs during hibernation — is not restful. By the time they emerge, hibernating animals are often sleep-deprived: Most expend huge bursts of energy to arouse themselves occasionally in the winter so their body temperatures don’t dip too low. This back-and-forth is exhausting, and hibernators do it with little to no food and water. By winter’s end, some have shed more than half their body weight. But just because it’s spring doesn’t mean it’s time to celebrate. Spring means getting ready for the full speed of summer — and after spending a season in slow motion, that requires some ramping up. Here’s a look at what different animals have on the agenda after coming out of winter’s slumber. Black bears emerge from their dens in April, but stay lethargic for weeks. During this so-called walking hibernation, they sleep plenty and don’t roam very far. Though they have lost up to one-third of their body weight over winter, they don’t have a huge appetite right away — their metabolism is not yet back to normal. They snack mostly on pussy willows and bunches of snow fleas. In January or February, some females give birth, typically to two or three cubs. New mothers continue to hibernate, but they go in and out of torpor, staying alert enough to respond to their cubs’ cries. When they emerge from their dens, mama bears find trees with rough bark that her cubs can easily climb for safety. “Slowly, the bears’ metabolism gears up to normal, active levels,” said Lynn Rogers, a bear expert and principal biologist at the Wildlife Research Institute, a nonprofit in Minnesota. “When plants start sprouting on the forest floor, that’s when they start really moving around.” © 2017 The New York Times Company
Keyword: Biological Rhythms
Link ID: 23406 - Posted: 03.25.2017
By Diana Kwon Astrocytes, star-shape glial cells in the brain, were once simply considered support cells for neurons. However, neuroscientists have recently realized they have many other functions: studies have shown that astrocytes are involved in metabolism, learning, and more. In the latest study to investigate astrocytes’ roles in the brain, researchers confirmed these cells played a key role in regulating mouse circadian rhythms. The team’s results were published today (March 23) in Current Biology. “Recent results have indicated that [glia] are actively modulating synaptic transmission, the development of the nervous system, and changes in the nervous system in response to changes in the environment,” said coauthor Erik Herzog, a neuroscientist at Washington University in St. Louis. “So circadian biologists recognized that the system that we study in the brain also had astrocytes and have wondered what role that they might play.” In 2005, Herzog’s team published a seminal study linking glia to mammalian circadian rhythms. By investigating rat and mouse astrocytes in a dish, the researchers discovered that these glial cells showed circadian rhythms in gene expression. Since then, several independent groups have reported evidence to suggest that astrocytes help regulate daily rhythms. However, linking astrocytes to circadian behaviors in mice remained difficult. “I had several folks in the lab over many years [who] were unable to find the tools that would allow us to answer the question definitively: Do astrocytes play a role in scheduling our day?” Herzog recalled. “Then, within the last year or so, some new tools . . . became available for us.”. © 1986-2017 The Scientist
USA Today Network Josh Hafner , For college students, new parents and employees dogged by deadlines, the all-nighter is nothing new. But going without sleep leaves you basically drunk, putting you at the equivalent of a .1% blood alcohol content as you drive to work, make decisions and interact with others. “The first thing that goes is your ability to think," said Joseph Ojile, M.D., a board member with the National Sleep Foundation. Judgement, memory and concentration all suffer impairment by the body's 17th hour without sleep, he said. “We know at 17 hours, you're at .08% blood alcohol level," he said, the legal standard for drunk driving. "At 24 hours, you’re at 0.1%." Coordination deteriorates as well in those intervening hours, said Ojile, a professor at Saint Louis University School of Medicine. Irritability sets in, too. Pain becomes more acute and the immune system suffers, he said, leaving the body more open to infection. "Here’s the worst part about the lack of judgement," Ojile said. "The person is unaware of their impairment. How scary is that? ‘I’m fine, I’ll just drive home. I’ll do my work at the nuclear plant, no problem. Or fly the plane, no problem.’" It's not entirely clear how the effects worsen past 24 hours, Ojile said, other than they do. The brain starts shutting down in trance-like microsleeps, 15- to 30-second spells that occur without the person noticing. Eventually, not sleeping results in death.
Link ID: 23404 - Posted: 03.25.2017
Richard A. Friedman Jet lag makes everyone miserable. But it makes some people mentally ill. There’s a psychiatric hospital not far from Heathrow Airport that is known for treating bipolar and schizophrenic travelers, some of whom are occasionally found wandering aimlessly through the terminals. A study from the 1980s of 186 of those patients found that those who’d traveled from the west had a higher incidence of mania, while those who’d traveled from the east had a higher incidence of depression. I saw the same thing in one of my patients who suffered from manic depression. When he got depressed after a vacation to Europe, we assumed he was just disappointed about returning to work. But then he had a fun trip out West and returned home in what’s called a hypomanic state: He was expansive, a fount of creative ideas. It was clear that his changes in mood weren’t caused by the vacation blues, but by something else. The problem turned out to be a disruption in his circadian rhythm. He didn’t need drugs; he needed the right doses of sleep and sunlight at the right time. It turns out that that prescription could treat much of what ails us. Clinicians have long known that there is a strong link between sleep, sunlight and mood. Problems sleeping are often a warning sign or a cause of impending depression, and can make people with bipolar disorder manic. Some 15 years ago, Dr. Francesco Benedetti, a psychiatrist in Milan, and colleagues noticed that hospitalized bipolar patients who were assigned to rooms with views of the east were discharged earlier than those with rooms facing the west — presumably because the early morning light had an antidepressant effect. The notion that we can manipulate sleep to treat mental illness has also been around for many years. Back in the late 1960s, a German psychiatrist heard about a woman in Tübingen who was hospitalized for depression and claimed that she normally kept her symptoms in check by taking all-night bike rides. He subsequently demonstrated in a group of depressed patients that a night of complete sleep deprivation produced an immediate, significant improvement in mood in about 60 percent of the group. © 2017 The New York Times Company
By Torah Kachur, A simple, non-invasive, non-medicinal, safe and cheap way to get a better night's sleep is to play some pink noise, according to a study published on Wednesday in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. Pink noise has more lower octaves than typical white noise and is hardly soothing. For example, it can be one-second pulses of the sound of a rushing waterfall. The short pieces of quick, quiet sounds would be really annoying if you were trying to fall asleep. But the pink noise isn't trying to get you to fall asleep; it's trying to keep you in a very deep sleep where you have slow brainwaves. This is one of our deepest forms of sleep and, in particular, seems to decline in aging adults. "When you play the pulses at particular times during deep sleep, it actually leads to an enhancement of the electrical signal. So it leads to essentially more of a synchronization of the neurons," said Nelly Papalambros, a PhD student at Northwestern University and the first author on the work. The pulses are timed to coincide with your entry into slow wave sleep. They sound to the same beat as your brainwaves, and they seem to increase the effectiveness of your very valuable and very elusive deep sleep. That slow wave sleep is critical for memory consolidation or, basically, your ability to incorporate new material learned that day with old material and memories. ©2017 CBC/Radio-Canada.
by Laura Sanders If your young child is facing ear tubes, an MRI or even extensive dental work, you’ve probably got a lot of concerns. One of them may be about whether the drugs used to render your child briefly unconscious can permanently harm his brain. Here’s the frustrating answer: No one knows. “It’s a tough conundrum for parents of kids who need procedures,” says pediatric anesthesiologist Mary Ellen McCann, a pediatric anesthesiologist at Boston Children’s Hospital. “Everything has risks and benefits,” but in this case, the decision to go ahead with surgery is made more difficult by an incomplete understanding of anesthesia’s risks for babies and young children. Some studies suggest that single, short exposures to anesthesia aren’t dangerous. Still, scientists and doctors say that we desperately need more data before we really understand what anesthesia does to developing brains. It helps to know this nonanswer comes with a lot of baggage, a sign that a lot of very smart and committed people are trying to answer the question. In December, the FDA issued a drug safety communication about anesthetics that sounded alarming, beginning with a warning that “repeated or lengthy use of general anesthetic and sedation drugs during surgeries or procedures in children younger than 3 years or in pregnant women during their third trimester may affect the development of children’s brains.” FDA recommended more conversations between parents and doctors, in the hopes of delaying surgeries that can safely wait, and the amount of anesthesia exposure in this potentially vulnerable population. |© Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2017.
Susan Milius Fitbit-style tracking of two wild African elephants suggests their species could break sleep records for mammals. The elephants get by just fine on about two hours of sleep a day. Much of that shut-eye comes while standing up — the animals sleep lying down only once every three or four days, new data show. Most of what scientists previously knew about sleeping elephants came from captive animals, says neuroethologist Paul Manger of the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. In zoos and enclosures, elephants have been recorded snoozing about three hours to almost seven over a 24-hour period. Monitoring African elephants in the wild, however, so far reveals more extreme behavior. Data are hard to collect, but two females wearing activity recorders for about a month averaged less sleep than other recorded mammals. Especially intriguing is the elephants’ ability to skip a night’s sleep without needing extra naps later, Manger and colleagues report March 1 in PLOS ONE. “The remarkably short amount of sleep in wild elephants is a real elephant in the room for several theories for the function of sleep,” says Niels Rattenborg of the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Seewiesen, Germany. Ideas that sleep restores or resets aspects of the brain for peak performance can’t explain animals that sleep only a little and don’t need catch-up rest, says Rattenborg, who wasn’t involved in the elephant study. The results also don’t fit well with the thought that animals need sleep to consolidate memories. “Elephants are usually not considered to be forgetful animals,” he says. |© Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2017.
Sleeping too much or too little can increase the likelihood of becoming obese, researchers have discovered. The study found abnormal sleeping patterns increased the risk of being overweight for those genetically predisposed to obesity. The effect was seen regardless of diet, health or socio-demographic group. The University of Glasgow study also found no clear link between sleep duration and body weight in those with a low genetic risk of obesity. Researchers looked at the effects of a short sleep of less than seven hours a night and a long sleep - more than nine hours - along with daytime napping and shift work. Negative effect They found that in people with a high genetic risk of obesity, both short-sleep and long-sleep durations further increased risk of carrying excess weight, compared with people who slept for normal durations of between seven and nine hours a night. Long sleepers with a risk of obesity were about 4kg heavier and short sleepers were about 2kg heavier than those with a similarly high genetic obesity risk with normal sleep durations. The negative affect happened irrespective of what subjects ate, their health concerns or socio-demographic factors, the research team said. The findings, based on data from almost 120,000 UK Biobank participants, showed no obvious link between sleep duration and body weight in those considered to be at a low genetic risk of obesity. Dr Jason Gill, from the Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences, said: "These data show that in people with high genetic risk for obesity, sleeping for too short or too long a time, napping during the day and shift work appears to have a fairly substantial adverse influence on body weight. © 2017 BBC.
Link ID: 23303 - Posted: 03.02.2017
Ian Sample Science editor Dozens of British children who developed narcolepsy as a result of a swine flu vaccine could be compensated after the high court rejected a government appeal to withhold payments. Six million people in Britain, and more across Europe, were given the Pandemrix vaccine made by GlaxoSmithKline during the 2009-10 swine flu pandemic, but the jab was withdrawn after doctors noticed a sharp rise in narcolepsy among those who received it. The sleep disorder is permanent and can cause people to fall asleep dozens of times a day. Some narcoleptics have night terrors and a muscular condition called cataplexy that can lead them to collapse on the spot. In 2015, a 12-year-old boy, known as John for the proceedings, was awarded £120,000 by a court that ruled he had been left severely disabled by narcolepsy caused by the vaccine. He was seven when he had the jab and developed symptoms within months. Because of his tiredness, John became disruptive at school and found it almost impossible to make friends. He takes several naps a day, cannot shower or take a bus on his own, and may never be allowed to drive a car. Despite paying out, the Department for Work and Pensions argued John’s disability was not serious enough to warrant compensation and said the court was wrong to take into account how the illness would affect him in the future. But the high court on Thursday rejected the government’s appeal that only the boy’s disability at the time should have been considered. The ruling paves the way for more than 60 other people to claim compensation. © 2017 Guardian News and Media Limited
By Julia Shaw We all have times of day when we are not at our best. For me, before 10am, and between 2-4pm, it’s as though my brain just doesn’t work the way it should. I labor to come up with names, struggle to keep my train of thought, and my eloquence drops to the level expected of an eight-year-old. In an effort to blame my brain for this, rather than my motivation, I reached out to a researcher in the area of sleep and circadian neuroscience. Andrea Smit, a PhD student working with Professors John McDonald and Ralph Mistlberger at Simon Fraser University in Canada, was happy to help me find excuses for why my memory is so terribly unreliable at certain times of day. Humans have daily biological rhythms, called circadian rhythms, which affect almost everything that we do. They inform our bodies when it is time to eat and sleep, and they dictate our ability to remember things. According to Smit, “Chronotype, the degree to which someone is a “morning lark” or a “night owl,” is a manifestation of circadian rhythms. In a recent study, Smit used EEG, a type of brain scan, to study the interaction between chronotypes and memory. “Testing extreme chronotypes at multiple times of day allowed us to compare attentional abilities and visual short term memory between morning larks and night owls. Night owls were worse at suppressing distracting visual information and had a worse visual short term memory in the morning as compared with the afternoon,” she says. “Our research shows that circadian rhythms interact with memories even at very early stages of processing within the brain.” © 2017 Scientific American