Metabolism in the brain fluctuates with circadian rhythm

August 28, 2012
Cell and developmental biology professor Martha Gillette and her colleagues at Illinois discovered that metabolism influences time-keeping in the brain. Credit: L. Brian Stauffer

(Medical Xpress)—The rhythm of life is driven by the cycles of day and night, and most organisms carry in their cells a common, (roughly) 24-hour beat. In animals, this rhythm emerges from a tiny brain structure called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) in the hypothalamus. Take it out of the brain and keep it alive in a lab dish and this "brain clock" will keep on ticking, ramping up or gearing down production of certain proteins at specific times of the day, day after day.

A new study reveals that the brain clock itself is driven, in part, by metabolism, the production and flow of chemical energy in cells. The researchers focused primarily on a phenomenon known as "redox" in tissues of the SCN from the brains of rats and mice.

Redox represents the energy changes of (usually through the transfer of electrons). When a molecule gains one or more electrons, scientists call it a reduction; when it loses electrons, they say it is oxidized. These , the researchers found, oscillate on a 24-hour cycle in the brain clock, and literally open and close channels of communication in .

The researchers report their findings in the journal Science, which also wrote a Perspective on the research.

"The language of the brain is electrical; it determines what kind of signals one part of the brain sends to the other cells in its tissue, as well as the other nearby," said University of Illinois cell and developmental biology professor Martha Gillette, who led the study. "The fundamental discovery here is that there is an intrinsic oscillation in metabolism in the clock region of the brain that takes place without external intervention. And this change in metabolism determines the excitable state of that part of the brain."

The new findings alter basic assumptions about how the brain works, Gillette said.

"Basically, the idea has always been that metabolism is serving brain function. What we're showing is metabolism is part of ," she said. "Our study implies that changes in cellular metabolic state could be a cause, rather than a result, of neuronal activity."

Explore further: Brain cell changes may cause sleep troubles in aging

More information: The paper, "Circadian Rhythm of Redox State Regulates Excitability in Suprachiasmatic Nucleus Neurons," is available online.

Related Stories

Brain cell changes may cause sleep troubles in aging

April 24, 2012
Older animals show cellular changes in the brain "clock" that sets sleep and wakeful periods, according to new research in the April 25 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience. The findings may help explain why elderly people ...

Energy levels link sleep control mechanisms

May 25, 2012
Sleep, or lack of it, can determine level of cognitive performance which is linked with accidents as well as increased risk of serious health problems. Links between cell energy levels, gene transcription and sleep rhythms ...

Brain oscillations reveal that our senses do not experience the world continuously

May 14, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- It has long been suspected that humans do not experience the world continuously, but rather in rapid snapshots.

Recommended for you

Our memory shifts into high gear when we think about raising our children, new study shows

December 15, 2017
Human memory has evolved so people better recall events encountered while they are thinking about raising their offspring, according to a new study conducted by researchers at Binghamton University, State University of New ...

Offbeat brain rhythms during sleep make older adults forget

December 15, 2017
Like swinging a tennis racket during a ball toss to serve an ace, slow and speedy brainwaves during deep sleep must sync up at exactly the right moment to hit the save button on new memories, according to new UC Berkeley ...

Study finds graspable objects grab attention more than images of objects do

December 15, 2017
Does having the potential to act upon an object have a unique influence on behavior and brain responses to the object? That is the question Jacqueline Snow, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Nevada, Reno, ...

Little understood cell helps mice see color

December 14, 2017
Researchers at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus have discovered that color vision in mice is far more complex than originally thought, opening the door to experiments that could potentially lead to new treatments ...

Scientists chart how brain signals connect to neurons

December 14, 2017
Scientists at Johns Hopkins have used supercomputers to create an atomic scale map that tracks how the signaling chemical glutamate binds to a neuron in the brain. The findings, say the scientists, shed light on the dynamic ...

Activating MSc glutamatergic neurons found to cause mice to eat less

December 13, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—A trio of researchers working at the State University of New York has found that artificially stimulating neurons that exist in the medial septal complex in mouse brains caused test mice to eat less. In ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.