How the brain's daily clock controls mood: A new project

April 24th, 2012
A math professor at the University of Michigan will lead an international, $1 million project examining the links between bipolar disorder and abnormalities in the circadian, or daily, rhythms of a mammal's internal clock.

In humans, this grain-of-rice-sized timepiece is a cluster of 20,000 neurons right behind the eyes. It's called the suprachiasmatic nucleas (SCN) of the brain's hypothalamus, and it is responsible for keeping our bodies in synch with our planet's 24-hour day.

Scientists believe it's off kilter in patients with bipolar disorder. Some of the genes implicated in the disease are the same ones that regulate the biological clock. The common treatment drug lithium is known to change the period of that clock, and when manic patients are forced to stay on a 24-hour schedule, many experience a reprieve from the episode, said principal investigator Daniel Forger, an associate professor in the U-M Department of Mathematics.

Exactly how the brain's clock controls mood remains a mystery, though. This new project aims to change that through complex mathematical modeling and experiments involving mice.

"We're going to continuously monitor the state of the animals' internal clock. We'll watch it tick, use mathematics to understand its function and test how it controls mood," Forger said.

The researchers will examine the brains of depressed and normal mice and look for abnormal electrical activity. The researchers aim to determine what state of the clock region corresponds with different moods in the animals.

"We're going to learn an awful lot about the circadian clock, which could also, in addition to depression, play a role in Alzheimer's, cancer and heart attacks," Forger said.

Provided by University of Michigan

This Science News Wire page contains a press release issued by an organization mentioned above and is provided to you “as is” with little or no review from Phys.Org staff.

More news stories

New gene map reveals cancer's Achilles heel

Scientists have mapped out the genes that keep our cells alive, creating a long-awaited foothold for understanding how our genome works and which genes are crucial in disease like cancer.

A blue, neptune-size exoplanet around a red dwarf star

A team of astronomers have used the LCOGT network to detect light scattered by tiny particles (called Rayleigh scattering), through the atmosphere of a Neptune-size transiting exoplanet. This suggests a blue sky on this world ...

CERN collides heavy nuclei at new record high energy

The world's most powerful accelerator, the 27 km long Large Hadron Collider (LHC) operating at CERN in Geneva established collisions between lead nuclei, this morning, at the highest energies ever. The LHC has been colliding ...

'Material universe' yields surprising new particle

An international team of researchers has predicted the existence of a new type of particle called the type-II Weyl fermion in metallic materials. When subjected to a magnetic field, the materials containing the particle act ...

Study suggests fish can experience 'emotional fever'

(—A small team of researchers from the U.K. and Spain has found via lab study that at least one type of fish is capable of experiencing 'emotional fever,' which suggests it may qualify as a sentient being. In their ...