October 05, 2010
Rod Cells Control Circadian Clock

The rod cells in the eye (used for seeing black and white under low light conditions) are the only eye cell type involved in controlling the body's circadian rhythm.

But a Johns Hopkins biologist working in collaboration with scientists at the University of Southern California and Cornell University -- unlocked part of that mystery recently. Their study found that rod cells one of three kinds of exquisitely photosensitive cells found in the retina of the eye are the only ones responsible for "setting" those clocks in low light conditions. What's more, the study found that rods which take their name from their cylindrical shape also contribute (along with cones and other retinal cells) to setting internal clocks in bright light conditions. The study appeared in a recent issue of Nature Neuroscience.

Aging people have worse sleep cycles and perhaps not coincidentally fewer rod cells. Probably yet another example of a vicious cycle in aging since insufficient sleep accelerates aging.

"Older adults often lose their rod cells to age, which means that their caretakers would be well advised to regularly and deliberately expose them to bright natural daylight in order to make sure that their natural, biological rhythms remain in sync so their sleep-wake cycles remain accurately set," Hattar said. "Otherwise, they could have sleep disturbances, such as intermittent waking or difficulty falling asleep, not to mention the impact on their appetite and other bodily functions."

So future eye rejuvenation therapies will not only help you see better but probably also help you sleep better as well.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2010 October 05 07:56 PM  Brain Sleep

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