Deirdre Budd’s Blog

The Importance of your body clock.

Posted on: May 9, 2010

For some years now we have known that an off-kilter body clock can throw off our sleep-wake cycle, eating habits, body temperature and hormones—and mounting evidence suggests a malfunctioning clock may also underlie the mood cycles in bipolar disorder.

In a Indiana University, a new study led by psychiatrist Alexander Niculescu, researchers found that children with bipolar disorder were likely to have a mutated gene, which codes for a particular  protein, crucial to circadian clock function. The team’s previous work identified alterations to this gene, and other clock genes, in animal models of bipolar disorder.  In the new study, the scientists compared the genomes of 152 bipolar children, with those of 140 typical children. (Children were studied because their moods cycle more rapidly than the moods of bipolar adults, and a quicker cycle suggests a stronger connection to the circadian clock.) The team found that the bipolar children were more likely to have one of four alterations to this particular gene. The investigators suspect that these mutations prevent the body from producing the right amount and type of protein to support normal circadian rhythm.

Previous studies have demonstrated that altering the sleep wake cycle has a profound effect on mood. Regulating sleep wake can improve extreme  mood cycles but the experts were not sure why, until animal studies showed  a connection to  the genes that control the setting of circadian rhythms.

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