Chapter 14. Biological Rhythms, Sleep, and Dreaming

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By Jim Robbins Tens of thousands of bar-tailed godwits are taking advantage of favorable winds this month and next for their annual migration from the mud flats and muskeg of southern Alaska, south across the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean, to the beaches of New Zealand and eastern Australia. They are making their journey of more than 7,000 miles by flapping night and day, without stopping to eat, drink or rest. “The more I learn, the more amazing I find them,” said Theunis Piersma, a professor of global flyway ecology at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands and an expert in the endurance physiology of migratory birds. “They are a total evolutionary success.” The godwit’s epic flight — the longest nonstop migration of a land bird in the world — lasts from eight to 10 days and nights through pounding rain, high winds and other perils. It is so extreme, and so far beyond what researchers knew about long-distance bird migration, that it has required new investigations. In a recent paper, a group of researchers said the arduous journeys challenge “underlying assumptions of bird physiology, orientation, and behavior,” and listed 11 questions posed by such migrations. Dr. Piersma called the pursuit of answers to these questions “the new ornithology.” The extraordinary nature of what bar-tailed and other migrating birds accomplish has been revealed in the last 15 years or so with improvements to tracking technology, which has given researchers the ability to follow individual birds in real time and in a detailed way along the full length of their journey. “You know where a bird is almost to the meter, you know how high it is, you know what it’s doing, you know its wing-beat frequency,” Dr. Piersma said. “It’s opened a whole new world.” The known distance record for a godwit migration is 13,000 kilometers, or nearly 8,080 miles. © 2022 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Animal Migration; Sleep
Link ID: 28484 - Posted: 09.21.2022

By Jackie Rocheleau After experimenting on a hen, his dog, his goldfish, and himself, dentist William Morton was ready. On Oct. 16, 1846, he hurried to the Massachusetts General Hospital surgical theater for what would be the first successful public test of a general anesthetic. His concoction of sulfuric ether and oil from an orange (just for the fragrance) knocked a young man unconscious while a surgeon cut a tumor from his neck. To the onlooking students and clinicians, it was like a miracle. Some alchemical reaction between the ether and the man’s brain allowed him to slip into a state akin to light sleep, to undergo what should have been a painful surgery with little discomfort, and then to return to himself with only a hazy memory of the experience. General anesthesia redefined surgery and medicine, but over a century later it still carries significant risks. Too much sedation can lead to neurocognitive disorders and may even shorten lifespan; too little can lead to traumatic and painful wakefulness during surgery. So far, scientists have learned that, generally speaking, anesthetic drugs render people unconscious by altering how parts of the brain communicate. But they still don’t fully understand why. Although anesthesia works primarily on the brain, anesthesiologists do not regularly monitor the brain when they put patients under. And it is only in the past decade that neuroscientists interested in altered states of consciousness have begun taking advantage of anesthesia as a research tool. “It’s the central irony” of anesthesiology, says George Mashour, a University of Michigan neuroanesthesiologist, whose work entails keeping patients unconscious during neurosurgery and providing appropriate pain management. Mashour is one of a small set of clinicians and scientists trying to change that. They are increasingly bringing the tools of neuroscience into the operating room to track the brain activity of patients, and testing out anesthesia on healthy study participants. These pioneers aim to learn how to more safely anesthetize their patients, tailoring the dose to individual patients and adjusting during surgery. They also want to better understand what governs the transitions between states of consciousness and even hope to crack the code of coma. © 2022 NautilusThink Inc, All rights reserved.

Keyword: Sleep; Consciousness
Link ID: 28480 - Posted: 09.17.2022

Michael Heithaus Could you explain how fish sleep? Do they drift away on currents, or do they anchor themselves to a particular location when they sleep? – Laure and Neeraj, New York From the goldfish in your aquarium to a bass in a lake to the sharks in the sea – 35,000 species of fish are alive today, more than 3 trillion of them. All over the world, they swim in hot springs, rivers, ponds and puddles. They glide through freshwater and saltwater. They survive in the shallows and in the darkest depths of the ocean, more than five miles down. If those trillions of fish, three major types exist: bony fish, like trout and sardines; jawless fish, like the slimy hagfish; and sharks and rays, which are boneless – instead, they have skeletons made of firm yet flexible tissue called cartilage. And all of them, every last one, needs to rest. Whether you’re a human or a haddock, sleep is essential. It gives a body time to repair itself, and a brain a chance to reset and declutter. As a marine biologist, I’ve always wondered how fish can rest. After all, in any body of water, predators are all over the place, lurking around, ready to eat them. But somehow they manage, like virtually all creatures on Earth. See the mysterious spot off the coast of Mexico where sharks take a nap. How they do it Scientists are still learning about how fish sleep. What we do know: Their sleep is not like ours. © 2010–2022, The Conversation US, Inc.

Keyword: Sleep; Evolution
Link ID: 28465 - Posted: 09.07.2022

By Rebecca Sohn Distinctive bursts of sleeping-brain activity, known as sleep spindles, have long been generally associated with strengthening recently formed memories. But new research has managed to link such surges to specific acts of learning while awake. These electrical flurries, which can be observed as sharp spikes on an electroencephalogram (EEG), tend to happen in early sleep stages when brain activity is otherwise low. A study published in Current Biology shows that sleep spindles appear prominently in particular brain areas that had been active in study participants earlier, while they were awake and learning an assigned task. Stronger spindles in these areas correlated with better recall after sleep. “We were able to link, within [each] participant, exactly the brain areas used for learning to spindle activity during sleep,” says University of Oxford cognitive neuroscientist Bernhard Staresina, senior author on the study. Staresina, Marit Petzka of the University of Birmingham in England and their colleagues devised a set of tasks they called the “memory arena,” which required each participant to memorize a sequence of images appearing inside a circle. While the subjects did so, researchers measured their brain activity with an EEG, which uses electrodes placed on the head. Participants then took a two-hour nap, after which they memorized a new image set—but then had to re-create the original image sequence learned before sleeping. During naps, the researchers recorded stronger sleep spindles in the specific brain areas that had been active during the pre-sleep-memorization task, and these areas differed for each participant. This suggested that the spindle pattern was not “hardwired” in default parts of the human brain; rather it was tied to an individual's thought patterns. The researchers also observed that participants who experienced stronger sleep spindles in brain areas used during memorization did a better job re-creating the images' positions after the nap. © 2022 Scientific American

Keyword: Sleep; Learning & Memory
Link ID: 28460 - Posted: 09.03.2022

Steven Strogatz Dreams are so personal, subjective and fleeting, they might seem impossible to study directly and with scientific objectivity. But in recent decades, laboratories around the world have developed sophisticated techniques for getting into the minds of people while they are dreaming. In the process, they are learning more about why we need these strange nightly experiences and how our brains generate them. In this episode, Steven Strogatz speaks with sleep researcher Antonio Zadra of the University of Montreal about how new experimental methods have changed our understanding of dreams. Steven Strogatz (00:03): I’m Steve Strogatz, and this is The Joy of Why, a podcast from Quanta Magazine that takes you into some of the biggest unanswered questions in math and science today. (00:13) In this episode, we’re going to be talking about dreams. What are dreams exactly? What purpose do they serve? And why are they often so bizarre? We’ve all had this experience: You’re dreaming about something fantastical, some kind of crazy story with a narrative arc that didn’t actually happen, with people we don’t necessarily know, in places we may have never even been. Is this just the brain trying to make sense of random neural firing? Or is there some evolutionary reason for dreaming? Dreams are inherently hard to study. Even with all the advances in science and technology, we still haven’t really found a way to record what someone else is dreaming about. Plus, as we all know, it’s easy to forget our dreams as soon as we wake up, unless we’re really careful to write them down. But even with all these difficulties, little by little, dream researchers are making progress in figuring out how we dream and why we dream. (01:11) Joining me now to discuss all this is Dr. Antonio Zadra, a professor at the University of Montreal and a researcher at the Center for Advanced Research in Sleep Medicine. His specialties include the study of nightmares, recurrent dreams and lucid dreaming. He’s also the coauthor of the recent book When Brains Dream, exploring the science and mystery of sleep. Tony, thank you so much for joining us today. Strogatz (01:39): I’m very excited to talk to you about this. So let’s start with thinking about the science of dreams as you and your colleagues see it today. Why are dreams so hard to study? All Rights Reserved © 2022

Keyword: Sleep; Evolution
Link ID: 28454 - Posted: 08.27.2022

Yuta Senzai Massimo Scanziani Does rapid eye movement during sleep reveal where you’re looking at in the scenery of dreams, or are they simply the result of random jerks of our eye muscles? Since the discovery of REM sleep in the early 1950s, the significance of these rapid eye movements has intrigued and fascinated scores of scientists, psychologists and philosophers. REM sleep, as the name implies, is a period of sleep when your eyes move under your closed eyelids. It’s also the period when you experience vivid dreams. We are researchers who study how the brain processes sensory information during wakefulness and sleep. In our recently published study, we found that the eye movements you make while you sleep may reflect where you’re looking in your dreams. Past studies have attempted to address this question by monitoring the eye movements of people as they slept and waking them up to ask what they were dreaming. The goal was to find a possible connection between the content of a dream just before waking up (say, a car coming in from the left) and the direction the eyes moved at that moment. Unfortunately, these studies have led to contradictory results. It could be that some participants inaccurately reported dreams, and it’s technically difficult to match a given eye movement to a specific moment in a self-reported dream. We decided to bypass the problem of dream self-reporting. Instead, we used a more objective way to measure dreams: the electrical activity of a sleeping mouse brain. Mice, like humans and many other animals, also experience REM sleep. Additionally, they have a sort of internal compass in their brains that gives them a sense of head direction. When the mouse is awake and running around, the electrical activity of this internal compass precisely reports its head direction, or “heading,” as it moves in its environment. © 2010–2022, The Conversation US, Inc.

Keyword: Sleep; Vision
Link ID: 28453 - Posted: 08.27.2022

By Sujata Gupta Lack of sleep has been linked to heart disease, poor mood and loneliness (SN: 11/15/16). Being tired could also make us less generous, researchers report August 23 in PLOS Biology. The hour of sleep lost in the switch over to Daylight Savings Time every spring appears to reduce people’s tendency to help others, the researchers found in one of three experiments testing the link between sleep loss and generosity. Specifically, they showed that average donations to one U.S.-based nonprofit organization dropped by around 10 percent in the workweek after the time switch compared with four weeks before and after the change. In Arizona and Hawaii, states that do not observe Daylight Savings Time, donations remained unchanged. With over half of the people living in parts of the developed world reporting that they rarely get enough sleep during the workweek, the finding has implications beyond the week we spring forward, the researchers say. “Lack of sleep shapes the social experiences we have [and] the kinds of societies we live in,” says neuroscientist Eti Ben Simon of the University of California, Berkeley. To test the link between sleep loss and generosity, Ben Simon and her team first brought 23 young adults into the lab for two nights. The participants slept through one night and stayed awake for another night. In the mornings, participants completed a standardized altruism questionnaire rating their likelihood of helping strangers or acquaintances in various scenarios. For instance, participants rated on a scale from 1 to 5, with 1 for least likely to help and 5 for most likely, whether they would give up their seat on a bus to a stranger or offer a ride to a coworker in need. Participants never read the same scenario more than once. Roughly 80 percent of participants showed less likelihood of helping others when sleep-deprived than when rested. © Society for Science & the Public 2000–2022.

Keyword: Sleep; Emotions
Link ID: 28444 - Posted: 08.24.2022

By Carolyn Wilke Sign up for Science Times Get stories that capture the wonders of nature, the cosmos and the human body. Get it sent to your inbox. By day, jumping spiders hunt their prey, stalking and pouncing like cats. When the lights go down, these pea-sized predators hang out — and maybe their minds spin dreams. As they twitch their legs and move their eyes, Evarcha arcuata, a species of jumping spiders, show something reminiscent of rapid eye movement, or R.E.M., sleep, researchers report Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. R.E.M. is the phase of sleep during which most human dreaming occurs. The study suggests that R.E.M. sleep may be more common than realized across animals, which may help untangle the mysteries of its purpose and evolution. To “look at R.E.M. sleep in something as distantly related to us as spiders is just utterly fascinating,” said Lauren Sumner-Rooney, a sensory biologist at the Leibniz Institute for Biodiversity and Evolution Research who wasn’t part of the new study. Daniela Roessler, a behavioral ecologist at the University of Konstanz in Germany and one of the study’s authors, was surprised when she noticed that jumping spiders sometimes dangle upside down during the night. Dr. Roessler started filming the resting arachnids and noticed other odd behaviors. “All of a sudden, they would make these crazy movements with the legs and start twitching. And it just reminded me immediately of a sleeping — not to say dreaming — cat or dog,” said Dr. Roessler. Such jerky movements in limbs are a marker of R.E.M. sleep, a state in which most of the body’s muscles go slack and the brain’s electrical activity mimics being awake. And then there’s the darting eyes, from which R.E.M. gets its name. But that’s tricky to spot it in animals with eyes that do not move, including spiders. However, part of a jumping spider’s eye does move. The acrobatic arachnids have eight eyes in total, and behind the lenses of their two biggest eyes are light-catching retinas that move to scan the environment. The arthropods’ exterior typically obscures these banana-shaped tubes, except when the spiders are babies and have translucent exoskeletons. So Dr. Roessler’s team looked for flitting retinas during rest in spiderlings younger than 10 days old. “It’s really clever,” said Paul Shaw, a neuroscientist at the Washington University School of Medicine. The researchers chose the right animal for this question, he added. © 2022 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Sleep; Evolution
Link ID: 28431 - Posted: 08.11.2022

Mo Costandi We spend approximately one-third of our lives sleeping, but why sleep is important is a big unanswered question, one which science has only begun to answer recently. We now know, for example, that the brain cleans itself while we sleep, and that long-term memories form during the rapid eye movement (REM) stage of sleep. Your brain is highly active during sleep Sleep can be defined as a temporary state of unconsciousness, during which our responses to the outside world are reduced. Yet, we also know that the brain is active during sleep, and there is growing evidence that it remains highly responsive: For instance, your sleeping brain will respond to your name, categorize words and then prepare appropriate actions, and even learn new information. Now, a new study by researchers at UCLA and Tel Aviv University shows that the human brain remains highly responsive to sound during sleep, but it does not receive feedback from higher order areas — sort of like an orchestra with “the conductor missing.” The findings could point to a better understanding of the extent to which the brain processes information in disorders of consciousness such as coma and vegetative states, and to the neural mechanisms of conscious awareness. The missing conductor Hanna Hayat and her colleagues had the rare opportunity to record the activity of cells directly from the brains of 13 patients with drug-resistant epilepsy, who were being evaluated for brain surgery and gave written consent to participate in the study during the evaluation. The researchers implanted depth electrodes in multiple regions of the patients’ brains, primarily to identify the source of their seizures, so that the abnormal tissue could be surgically removed. Over the course of eight overnight sessions and six daytime naps, they played various sounds — including words, sentences and music — to the patients through bedside loudspeakers. They also used standard electroencephalogram (EEG) to monitor the patients’ sleep stages and recorded their sleep behavior with video. © Copyright 2007-2022 & BIG THINK,

Keyword: Sleep
Link ID: 28416 - Posted: 08.03.2022

By Linda Searing Routinely getting a good night’s sleep has been added to the American Heart Association’s list of key components of cardiovascular health, lengthening the list to eight factors the association believes can lead to a longer, higher-quality life without heart disease. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and has been for the past century, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Since 2010, the AHA had focused on seven points: maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, being physically active, eating a healthy diet, and keeping blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar at acceptable levels. Now, however, as indicated in its report published in the journal Circulation, the AHA believes that healthy sleep also should be taken into account. The group’s suggested goal is seven to nine hours of sleep daily for adults, and more for children (eight to 10 hours for 13- to 18-year-olds, nine to 12 hours for 6- to 12-year-olds and 10 to 16 hours for children 5 and younger). Sleep has long been considered vital to good health, both physically and psychologically. Sleep gives the body a needed break to heal and repair itself, setting people up to function normally when they awaken. But a lack of sleep (or poor-quality sleep) puts a person at higher risk for such conditions as diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and more. © 1996-2022 The Washington Post

Keyword: Sleep
Link ID: 28395 - Posted: 07.14.2022

By Kim Tingley “Time,” when we give it any thought, tends to strike us as extrinsic, a feature of our landscape: We track our passage through it as if traversing an invisible geography, our progress charted by wristwatch, clock, calendar. Humans didn’t invent time, of course, but you might reasonably argue that because we invented the units we use to keep track of it — hours, minutes, seconds — we have every right to tinker with them when we want to. This, at least, was the position the Senate took on March 15, when in a surprise, and surprisingly uncontested, vote it passed the Sunshine Protection Act. The new law would, if the House concurs and the president signs, make daylight saving time permanent, beginning on Nov. 5, 2023. The change has long been a desire of the retail industry because it is convinced that shoppers spend more money when it stays light out later. But lawmakers also seem to have regarded the annual rolling back of the clock as a personal affront: the groggy mornings that result from turning 6 a.m. into 5 a.m., the morale killer for Boston and Billings alike when darkness abruptly descends shortly after 4 in the afternoon. When the yeas prevailed, there was bipartisan applause, as if a particularly hostile foreign adversary had been defeated. What most of those lawmakers very likely didn’t realize was that the enemy was not just outside us — a social agreement about how to label every moment of our existence relative to the sun — it was also inside us, where our internal organs are keeping time, too. In fact, most of our physiological functions are governed by an untold number of carefully synchronized biological clocks that each complete one cycle about every 24 hours. Those cycles are known as circadian rhythms, after the Latin for “about” (circa) and “day” (dies). © 2022 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Biological Rhythms
Link ID: 28394 - Posted: 07.12.2022

Linda Geddes Science correspondent Summer sunshine can leave us feeling hot, sweaty and a bit burnt – but it may also make men hungrier, by triggering the release of an appetite-boosting hormone from fat stores in their skin, data suggests. The study, which was published in the journal Nature Metabolism, adds to growing evidence that the effects of sun exposure may be more complex than first thought. Excessive exposure is well known to increase the risk of skin cancer, but recent studies have suggested moderate exposure may increase life expectancy, on average, by helping to protect against cardiovascular disease and other causes of death. One possibility is that it lowers blood pressure through the release of nitric oxide from the skin, a process that causes blood vessels to relax. Other scientists have attributed the health benefits of sunlight to vitamin D production. Advertisement Wondering whether food consumption could also provide some clues, Carmit Levy, a professor at Tel Aviv University’s department of human molecular genetics and biochemistry, and his colleagues analysed data from 3,000 participants who were enrolled in a national nutrition survey. The researchers found men but not women increased their food intake during the summer months. The effect was not huge – equivalent to eating an extra 300 calories a day – but over time this could be enough to cause weight gain. To investigate further, they exposed male and female volunteers to 25 minutes of midday sunlight on a clear day, and found it triggered an increase in levels of the appetite-boosting hormone ghrelin in the men’s blood but not in women’s. Experiments in mice similarly found that when males were exposed to UVB rays, they ate more, were more motivated to search for food and had increased levels of ghrelin in their blood. No such change was seen in female mice. The trigger for ghrelin release appeared to be DNA damage in skin cells. Oestrogen blocked this effect, which may be why sunlight did not affect females in the same way. © 2022 Guardian News & Media Limited

Keyword: Biological Rhythms; Obesity
Link ID: 28393 - Posted: 07.12.2022

Shogo Sato Anyone who has suffered from jet lag or struggled after turning the clock forward or back an hour for daylight saving time knows all about what researchers call your biological clock, or circadian rhythm – the “master pacemaker” that synchronizes how your body responds to the passing of one day to the next. This “clock” is made up of about 20,000 neurons in the hypothalamus, the area near the center of the brain that coordinates your body’s unconscious functions, like breathing and blood pressure. Humans aren’t the only beings that have an internal clock system: All vertebrates – or mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish – have biological clocks, as do plants, fungi and bacteria. Biological clocks are why cats are most active at dawn and dusk, and why flowers bloom at certain times of day. Circadian rhythms are also essential to health and well-being. They govern your body’s physical, mental and behavioral changes over each 24-hour cycle in response to environmental cues like light and food. They’re why more heart attacks and strokes occur early in the morning. They’re also why mice that are missing their biological clocks age faster and have shorter lifespans, and people with a mutation in their circadian clock genes have abnormal sleep patterns. Chronic misalignment of your circadian rhythm with external cues, as seen in night-shift workers, can lead to a wide range of physical and mental disorders, including obesity, Type 2 diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular diseases. In short, there is ample evidence that your biological clock is critical to your health. And chronobiologists like me are studying how the day-night cycle affects your body to better understand how you can modify your behaviors to use your internal clock to your advantage. © 2010–2022, The Conversation US, Inc.

Keyword: Biological Rhythms
Link ID: 28386 - Posted: 07.05.2022

By Lisa L. Lewis To any observers, the electrodes were the most visible sign that the Stanford Summer Sleep Camp was a bit out of the ordinary. Joe Oliveira, one of the original campers, recalls that right after check-in, four electrodes were glued to his hair, two taped next to his eyes, and several more by his chin. The electrodes remained in place the whole time. Long cords came out of them that were, “very small, like an iPhone charger,” he told me. During the day, the cords were often tied back and taped together into a compact bundle at the back of his head. The “trodes” (as the campers were called because of their electrode ponytails) attracted their fair share of weird looks on their outings around the university campus. And there was something else peculiar: Like clockwork, every two hours, they all returned to the dorm for “nap tests,” according to Mary Carskadon, who was pursuing her doctorate in neuro- and biobehavioral sciences at Stanford University. In their darkened dorm rooms, all the campers — a mix of kids and teens — would lie quietly for 20 minutes and attempt to fall asleep. Meanwhile, technicians in a nearby control room monitored their brainwaves, eye movements, and chin-muscle activity being transmitted from their electrodes via the cords, which had been plugged into a box near the headboard that had cables linked to a polysomnograph machine in the other room. There, a continuous paper trail issued forth mapping the campers’ data. When the time was up, the campers were roused and unplugged. The counselors recorded their vital signs, then plugged their wires into a second box closer to the dorm room desk and ran the campers through a short series of tests to measure their recall, attention span, and other aspects of alertness and cognitive functioning. Tom Harvey, who worked as a counselor/technician at the camp for several years, recalled a mix of “math tests and memory tests and ‘can you suffer through boredom’ tests.”

Keyword: Sleep; Development of the Brain
Link ID: 28381 - Posted: 06.25.2022

By Oliver Whang The sleep debt collectors are coming. They want you to know that there is no such thing as forgiveness, only a shifting expectation of how and when you’re going to pay them back. You think of them as you lie in bed at night. How much will they ask for? Are you solvent? You fall asleep, then wake up in a cold sweat an hour later. You fall asleep, then wake up, drifting in and out of consciousness until morning. As most every human has discovered, a couple nights of bad sleep is often followed by grogginess, difficulty concentrating, irritability, mood swings and sleepiness. For years, it was thought that these effects, accompanied by cognitive impairments like lousy performances on short-term memory tests, could be primarily attributed to a chemical called adenosine, a neurotransmitter that inhibits electrical impulses in the brain. Spikes of adenosine had been consistently observed in sleep-deprived rats and humans. Adenosine levels can be quickly righted after a few nights of good sleep, however. This gave rise to a scientific consensus that sleep debt could be forgiven with a couple of quality snoozes — as reflected in casual statements like “I’ll catch up on sleep” or “I’ll be more awake tomorrow.” But a review article published recently in the journal Trends in Neurosciences contends that the folk concept of sleep as something that can be saved up and paid off is bunk. The review, which canvassed the last couple of decades of research on long term neural effects of sleep deprivation in both animals and humans, points to mounting evidence that getting too little sleep most likely leads to long-lasting brain damage and increased risk of neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s disease. © 2022 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Sleep
Link ID: 28380 - Posted: 06.25.2022

Killian Fox Born in Aldershot in 1959, Russell Foster is a professor of circadian neuroscience at Oxford and the director of the Nuffield Laboratory of Ophthalmology. For his discovery of non-rod, non-cone ocular photoreceptors he received numerous awards including the Zoological Society scientific medal. His latest book – the first he has written without a co-author – is Life Time: The New Science of the Body Clock, and How It Can Revolutionize Your Sleep and Health. What is circadian neuroscience? It’s the fundamental understanding of how our biology ticks on a 24-hour basis. But also it’s bigger than that – it’s an understanding of how different structures interact within the brain and how different genes and their protein products generate a complex behaviour. And that is then embedded throughout our entire biology. Is it an exciting field? What’s happened over the past 25 years has been a move into understanding how these internal 24-hour oscillations are generated and I think it’s one of the amazing success stories in biomedicine. One of the great aims of neuroscience is identifying different bits of the brain with different functions and here we’ve got one: the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), with 50,000 cells, is the master circadian pacemaker. If you don’t have that, then all of our 24-hour rhythms just disappear. How did you first get interested in circadian research? It was largely through photoreceptors. During my second year as an undergraduate – I did zoology at Bristol – I was reading the extraordinary The Life of Vertebrates by JZ Young and I came across a bit about lampreys. They have a parietal third eye, which mammals don’t have; we only have ocular photoreceptors, whereas fish, reptiles, birds, all have multiple photoreceptors. And I just thought: wow, this is so cool. For my PhD, I was trying to understand how light is detected and measured to regulate the seasonal biology of birds. Then I started to address what seemed a simple question: how are the clocks of mammals regulated? We don’t have weird photoreceptors, we have visual cells that grab light in a fraction of a second and then forget it. So how can that light sensory system also be used to gather light information over long periods of time – dawn-dusk detectors? Way back in the early 1990s, we suggested that there was [an undiscovered photoreceptor] in the eye and there was a huge outcry. © 2022 Guardian News & Media Limited

Keyword: Biological Rhythms; Sleep
Link ID: 28379 - Posted: 06.25.2022

By Anna Gibbs Turns out there is rest for the wicked: Sleepy mosquitoes are more likely to catch up on missed z’s than drink blood, a new study finds. Most people are familiar with the aftermath of a poor night’s sleep. Insects also suffer; for instance, drowsy honeybees struggle to perform their signature waggle dance, and weary fruit flies show signs of memory loss. In the case of sleep-deprived mosquitoes, they give up valuable time for feeding in favor of sleeping overtime, researchers report June 1 in Journal of Experimental Biology. The preference for dozing over dining is surprising given that “we know that mosquitoes love blood a lot,” says Oluwaseun Ajayi, a disease ecologist at the University of Cincinnati. Scientists have long been interested in mosquitoes’ circadian rhythms, the internal clock that determines their sleep and awake times (SN: 10/2/17). Knowing when a mosquito is awake — and biting — is important for understanding and limiting disease transmission. For instance, malaria, often transmitted by nocturnal mosquitoes, is kept under control by slinging netting around beds. But new research suggests that mosquitoes that feed during the day may also spread the disease. It’s challenging to study sleeping bloodsuckers in the lab. That’s partly because awake mosquitoes are aroused by the presence of a meal — the experimenter. And when mosquitoes do fall asleep, they look rather similar to peers that are merely resting to conserve energy. © Society for Science & the Public 2000–2022.

Keyword: Sleep; Evolution
Link ID: 28359 - Posted: 06.09.2022

The Associated Press NEW YORK — Researchers are drawing attention to a rise in poisonings in children involving the sleep aid melatonin — including a big jump during the pandemic. Last year, U.S. poison control centers received more than 52,000 calls about children consuming worrisome amounts of the dietary supplement — a six-fold increase from about a decade earlier. Most such calls are about young children who accidentally got into bottles of melatonin, some of which come in the form of gummies for kids. Parents may think of melatonin as the equivalent of a vitamin and leave it on a nightstand, said Dr. Karima Lelak, an emergency physician at Children's Hospital of Michigan and the lead author of the study published Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "But really it's a medication that has the potential to cause harm, and should be put way in the medicine cabinet," Lelak said. An increasingly popular over-the-counter sleep aid Melatonin is a hormone that helps control the body's sleep cycle. It has become a popular over-the-counter sleeping aid, with sales increasing 150% between 2016 and 2020, the authors said. In the U.S., melatonin is sold as a supplement, not regulated as a drug. Because melatonin is unregulated, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration doesn't have oversight over the purity of ingredients or the accuracy of dosage claims. Other researchers have found that what's on the label may not match what's actually in the bottle, and some countries have banned the sale of over-the-counter melatonin. © 2022 npr

Keyword: Biological Rhythms; Sleep
Link ID: 28351 - Posted: 06.04.2022

By Peter Kendall As he gets ready for sleep each night, Don Tucker slips on an electrode cap and checks a little computer on his bedside table. Many workers at the private lab, run by the professor emeritus at the University of Oregon, follow the same routine. The experimental device monitors the nightly voyage through sleep. After sensing light sleep for a few minutes, it pulses electric current through the scalp and skull, nudging the brain into that nirvana known as deep sleep. The goal is not just a more restful slumber. Groundbreaking discoveries made in the past decade have revealed that the brain has a power-washing system that switches into high gear during deep sleep, flushing away harmful waste. This nightly cleanup is part of the restorative power of sleep and revives concentration, memory and motor skills. As we age, however, this cleansing system gets sloppier, and it can begin to leave behind some of the metabolic detritus of the day, including the amyloid beta proteins found in the plaque that characterize Alzheimer’s disease and other devastating neurological disorders. The controversial approval of an Alzheimer’s drug reignites the battle over the underlying cause of the disease The stunning revelation in 2012 of this previously unknown brain infrastructure — dubbed the glymphatic system — has ushered in a new age of research and invention not only about sleep but also aging, dementia and brain injury. Nearly 300 research papers were published last year on the glymphatic system. © 1996-2022 The Washington Post

Keyword: Sleep
Link ID: 28346 - Posted: 06.01.2022

If you’ve ever been put under anaesthesia, you might recall the disorienting feeling of blinking your eyes one moment and the next, waking up hours later. Now, findings from a new study illustrate just how profoundly general anaesthesia alters the state of the brain as it induces and maintains unconsciousness. It’s the first paper to track travelling brain waves in subjects all the way through the process of losing to regaining consciousness. An interdisciplinary team has found that the commonly used anaesthetic, propofol, substantially alters how different frequencies of brain waves travel along the cortex – the surface of the brain – and the research has been published in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience. Unconsciousness induced by propofol may be in part due to an increase in the strength and direction of slow delta traveling brain waves that disrupt higher-frequency waves associated with cognition. “The rhythms that we associate with higher cognition are drastically altered by propofol,” explains senior author Earl Miller, professor of neuroscience with the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US. “The beta traveling waves seen during wakefulness are pushed aside, redirected by delta traveling waves that have been altered and made more powerful by the anaesthetic,” he says. “The deltas come through like a bull in a china shop.” Conscious brains show a mixture of brain waves of different frequencies, which rotate or travel straight in various directions: you could think of them like the numerous waves on a choppy ocean.

Keyword: Sleep
Link ID: 28314 - Posted: 05.04.2022