Scientists identify cells in brain that controls body clock rhythms

on 05 October 2018
The Networkers

I often guess the time, merely to see how connected I am to reality. Surprisingly I have noticed a connection between my estimation of the time and present states of mind. When I am experiencing certain negative emotions, my estimation goes awry and when I am feeling very well, it is more accurate . . . 

Did we create time or did time create us?

An interesting article on the importance and function of circadian rhythms, our body's 24-hour clock. Its location, the suprachiasmatic nucleus, in the hypothalamus, goes some way in explaining its connection with many of the issues relating to clients with stress, anxiety, sleep, mood and depressive disorders. The hypothalamus is an integral part of the stress response and the associated regions of the body's threat detection systems that play out in many of the above conditions.

Circadian rhythms affect sleep-wake cycles and via associated regions, in the hypothalamus, water balance, blood pressure, stress response. So, dysregulation of circadian rhythms would likely affect our sleep and if we do not sleep well, the brain doesn't function as well as it could. The opposite is also likely, in that the presence of stressors, could upset circadian rhythms. It is quite common for clients to say they ruminate on life's difficulties, they worry, fret, overthink etc. So, once we get into this cycle, there are so many regions of the brain that become hyperactive and this leads to the presence of large amounts of stress hormones, e.g. adrenaline (epinephrine), noradrenaline (norepinephrine) and cortisol. These hormones, which are essential for life itself, are necessary and very well-intentioned when present for the right reasons, e.g. tissue repair, healing and defensive reactions to dangers or threats. It's when they are present for perceived danger or threats that could happen but in all probability won't, that it all starts to go wrong! For example, you book a flight and immediately become anxious. This is based on a perceptual reality because planes can and do crash but the odds of that happening are so remote and that makes it highly improbable. In fact, the most dangerous part of any air travel is the drive to the airport!

One of the very best things we can learn to do, that facilitates good balance within our body clock, promotes sleep at the right time and keeps all other body functions within limits, is to practice and develop the art of mindful relaxation. All of the above systems come into force in the presence of real or perceived danger, as well as being a consequence of the absence of calm, peaceful and relaxed mind/brain states. Learning to create, maintain and experience mindful relaxation is the precursor to effective living. Experientially I have found the negative inclination, intonation, vagueness and ambiguity of our everyday language and self-talk surreptitiously feed a negative mindset. It is the presence of these negative states of mind, that inhibit a person's ability to shift towards having a positive mindset. While positive affirmations can work, they work so much quicker and better, once we remove the negative effects of the words we use. This is not an overly difficult task, it just seems so because language is so intertwined into our linguistic DNA (my own word).

Hypnotherapy stands out as one of the most effective strategic life management methods there is, especially in its ability to redesign language representation in our deeper mind (deep language structure, as opposed to surface structure). The behaviours that make life challenging are often a result of dysregulation of the neurotransmission in and across the brain. Stress and anxiety, which are almost always present in many disorders that I treat, may play a developing role in the progression of one's difficulty in experiencing a happy life So it makes perfect sense to use a methodology that addresses the subconscious mind's role in perpetuating this condition. If you would like to address any concerns you have in this direction, or, if you just want to make your life feel better,  then why not make an appointment for a Free Consultation? Hypnosis gives you the ability to have a good life!

The objective here is to help people understand how and why we become illogically trapped into irrational emotional experiences that may actually be happening for reasons different to that which we would imagine! If you want to know more about how Hypnotherapy can help you; why not make an appointment for a Free Consultation?

For more information on the Free Consultation - Go Here Or, to book your Free Consultation today, you can do so here

The Research: 

UT Southwestern Medical Center neuroscientists have identified key cells within the brain that are critical for determining circadian rhythms, the 24-hour processes that control sleep and wake cycles, as well as other important body functions such as hormone production, metabolism, and blood pressure.

Circadian rhythms are generated by the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) located within the hypothalamus of the brain, but researchers had previously been unable to pinpoint which of the many thousands of neurons in the region were involved in controlling the body's timekeeping mechanisms.

"We have found that a group of SCN neurons that express a neuropeptide called neuromedin S (NMS) is both necessary and sufficient for the control of circadian rhythms," said Dr Joseph Takahashi, Chairman of Neuroscience and Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Investigator at UT Southwestern, who holds the Loyd B. Sands Distinguished Chair in Neuroscience.

The findings, published in the journal Neuron, may offer important targets for future treatments of diseases and problems related to circadian dysfunction, which range from jet lag and sleep disorders to neurological problems such as Alzheimer's disease, as well as metabolism issues and psychiatric disorders such as depression.

Key studies in the 1970s revealed that the SCN communicates and coordinates cells throughout the body to control circadian rhythms, but the SCN contains many neurons with different expression patterns of neuropeptides and neurotransmitters.

"Which of these neurons are responsible for producing circadian rhythms was a major unanswered question in neurobiology. This study marks a significant advancement in our understanding of the body clock" said senior author Dr Masashi Yanagisawa, Adjunct Professor of Molecular Genetics, former HHMI Investigator at UT Southwestern, and current Director of the World Premier International Institute for Integrative Sleep Medicine at the University of Tsukuba in Japan.

NMS is a neuropeptide -- a protein made of amino acids that neurons, which are cells in the brain, use to communicate. Researchers created unique mouse models to determine that NMS-expressing neurons act as cellular pacemakers to regulate circadian rhythms. Specifically, the research team found that modulating the internal clock in just the NMS neurons altered the circadian period throughout the whole animal. In addition, the study provided new insights into the mechanisms by which light synchronizes body clock rhythms.

Dr Takahashi identified and cloned the first mammalian gene -- called Clock--related to circadian rhythms. Since then, the Takahashi lab has determined that disruptions in the Clock and Bmal1 genes in mice can alter the release of insulin by the pancreas, resulting in diabetes, and they determined the 3-D structure of the CLOCK-BMAL1 protein complex, which are considered to be the batteries of the biological clock.

Dr Yanagisawa first identified the important role that endothelin plays on the cardiovascular system, and later, with his discovery of orexin, showed that sleep/wakefulness is controlled by a single neuropeptide. His lab has since identified numerous receptors involved in the regulation of appetite and blood pressure, as well as other neuropeptides that play an important role in the regulation of energy metabolism, stress responses, emotions, and other functions.

Story Source:

Materials provided by UT Southwestern Medical CenterNote: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Ivan T. Lee, Alexander S. Chang, Manabu Manandhar, Yongli Shan, Junmei Fan, Mariko Izumo, Yuichi Ikeda, Toshiyuki Motoike, Shelley Dixon, Jeffrey E. Seinfeld, Joseph S. Takahashi, Masashi Yanagisawa. Neuromedin S-Producing Neurons Act as Essential Pacemakers in the Suprachiasmatic Nucleus to Couple Clock Neurons and Dictate Circadian RhythmsNeuron, 2015; 85 (5): 1086 DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2015.02.006

Cite This Page:

UT Southwestern Medical Center. "Neuroscientists identify cell type in the brain that controls body clock circadian rhythms." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 March 2015. <>.