The Clockworks Lab seeks answers as to what why do current biological functions and behaviors occur (birds singing in the morning vs frogs calling at night) or at least, more likely to occur (heart attacks before dawn and asthmatic attacks after sunset) at a particular time of day or a season (feeling lethargic and depressed during the winter vs feeling energetic and alert during the summer). The answer lies in understanding the central role of the brain's clock in organizing our body functions around the major variable in the external world, the daily cycle of darkness and light. This circadian clock, located in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) of the brain, whose cellular processes mark the passage of time in near 24-hr cycles, is a fundamental life component. Circadian clocks impose temporal order on cells, tissues, and organs throughout the body, modulating body processes over the day-night cycle. Our broad research objective is to understand how biological timing systems control integrative brain functions.
Our research has important applications: Malfunctioning of the brain's circadian clock results in disorders in brain and organ function, which manifest themselves as clinical disorders of sleep, movement and neural degeneration, such as in Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases. The breadth of our systems-based analysis is generating insights into mechanisms that synchronize people to day and night, which is of proven importance to good health and disease-resistance. Outcomes will enhance understanding of substrates that generate long-term neural changes, with broad relevance for public health and disease prevention. They will enable strategies for ameliorating sleep, autonomic, degenerative, movement and cognitive disorders.
In addition, we are engaged in interdisciplinary research with Jonathan Sweedler to build upon campus excellence in molecular and cellular biology, nano-scale analytical chemistry and bioengineering. Our goal is to discover novel insights, solutions, and applications for neural repair and restoration of function through targeting critical molecules and processes that construct micro-networks during the normal wiring of the nervous system.
Our Principal Investigator is Martha Gillette.
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