Round-the-clock lifestyle affects metabolism, behaviour

Monday, February 28, 2011

WASHINGTON - Our modern, round-the-clock lifestyle seems to derail metabolism, learning and behaviour in ways that we’re just beginning to understand.

Researchers led by Ilia Karatsoreos, postdoctoral scholar in Hatch Lab of Neuroendocrinology, Rockefeller University, housed mice for 10 weeks in 20-hour light-dark cycles at odds with their natural 24-hour circadian cycle.

They found that after six weeks, the disrupted mice got fatter, showed less mental flexibility and were more impulsive than mice kept on their natural schedule, the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reports.

“We are interested in how the light cycle changes affects ‘clock genes’ — the actual molecular gears of the circadian clock within cells — in different brain regions…, and how this translates to changes in the functioning of the cells in that region,” Karatsoreos says, according to a Rockefeller University statement.

“The circadian system is a ‘web,’ with rhythms at the molecular level driving rhythms at the cellular level, which results in rhythms at the tissue level.

“This can lead to a cascading set of effects throughout the whole organism, and we want to understand how exactly that happens,” adds Karatsoreos.

The researchers believe that this cascade may affect how an individual, whether animal or human, responds to infection or high fat food, both ubiquitous realities of modern life.

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