clock

Neuroscientist discovers how animal’s biological clock wakes up, goes to sleep

Fifteen years ago, an odd mutant fruit fly caught the attention and curiosity of Dr. Ravi Allada, a circadian rhythms expert at Northwestern University, leading the neuroscientist to recently discover how an animal’s biological clock wakes it up in the morning and puts it to sleep at night.
The clock’s mechanism, it turns out, is much like a light switch. In a study of brain circadian neurons that govern the daily sleep-wake cycle’s timing, Allada and his research team found that high sodium channel activity in these neurons during the day turn the cells on and ultimately awaken an animal, and high potassium channel activity at night turn them off, allowing the animal to sleep. Investigating further, the researchers were surprised to discover the same sleep-wake switch in both flies and mice.
This suggests the underlying mechanism controlling our sleep-wake cycle is ancient,said Allada, professor and chair of neurobiology in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. He is the senior author of the study.This oscillation mechanism appears to be conserved across several hundred million years of evolution. And if it’s in the mouse, it is likely in humans, too.