July 1, 2013
Mapping The Human Biological Clock
Our biological clock, as the name may hint towards, keeps our body on track to what time of day it is. There are different factors that play into helping our body understand what time of day it is. For instance, our body naturally produces neurotransmitters that help our body to start back up. Different parts of our body are triggered and allow our body to wake up.
The body is constantly fighting between being awake and falling asleep. In the suprachiasmatic nucleus, these two systems work to win a constant battle for control over what the body does. Two neurotransmitter networks play an essential role in this inner body combat, GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) and VIP (Vasoactive intestinal polypeptide). GABA is considered one of the most common inhibitory neurotransmitter within the human brain and prevents many different actions from taking place within the brain. These two systems act together to help us wake up. These systems aren’t made to help us quickly change our biological clocks. What this means is, if we pull an all-night study session, our body doesn’t quickly adapt to this change. Certain transmitters or hormones must be released or depleted before the body can wake back up and be able to perform everyday tasks. It is this that makes us feel groggy when we wake up and keeps us from jumping right out of bed.
Scientists have looked very close into what these different changes in the body are as they find that many people show similar characteristics when they wake up. Researchers have found that it is natural for your blood pressure to rise and for those with heart conditions or have a risk for high blood pressure are already at risk for heart attack or stroke. In fact, there are more 911 calls in the morning than any other time of day, due to the rise in blood pressure of people as they wake up.
Dr. Erik Herzog and his team at Washington University in St. Louis looked closer into how these neurons within the brain are linked in actually maintaining this biological clock. His research hopes to find if these chains of neurons are interacting one by one or if these neurons actually send messages to all the neurons around it. It is unsure if the body’s ability to slowly adapt rather than quickly reacting stems from this idea that the neurons act more like a chain that sends signal one by one rather than one neuron to several different neurons at once.
As researchers continue to look into how the body interacts with the environment around us, we hope to understand what our body does in the different stages within the day. Scientists have a general idea of what happens to the body when we wake up and what parts of the brain are activated, but the pathways are still being explored. Understanding what our body does will allow us to prevent every day feelings like grogginess and fatigue that may hinder our ability to be productive and perform our everyday tasks.
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