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How do animals exposed to 24-hour light retain their wake-sleep habits?

Washington, DC The phrase "biological clock" has expanded from scientific observation to American slang. When we hear this phrase, many of us assume it refers to the amount of time left for a woman to start a family. For the scientist, the biological clock refers to a process that took millions of years to evolve the conditioning of plants and animals by a light cycle that starts with dawn and ends with sunset.

The cycle of dawn and dusk changes with the seasons everywhere in the world (except at the equator, where there is always 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness). In order to compensate for the seasonal variations of light, mammals likely have an adjustable daily program under the regulation of a biological clock.

But how do mammals in the Arctic which is characterized by months of full light followed by months of full darkness -- retain their sleep and awake habits in such unusual circumstances? After analyzing the reactions of certain mammals following 82 days of continuous daylight in the summer and 82 days of continuous darkness in the winter, a team of researchers may have begun to identify a clue.

A New Study

The research is captured in a presentation entitled, "Cardiac Physiology of Mammals in Arctic Light Cycle: Heart Rates and Biological Clocks." The authors, G. Edgar Folk, Diana L. Thrift, James B. Martins, and Miriam B. Zimmerman, all from the University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA, will present their findings at the American Physiological Society's (APS)(www.the-aps.org) annual scientific conference, Experimental Biology 2004, being held April 17-21, 2004, at the Washington, D.C. Convention Center.

Methodology and Results

The researchers analyzed the biological clocks using cardiac physiology. They recorded the mammals' daily circadian rhythm using heart rate to show the rhythm of sleep and wakefulness.

Control laboratory rats (N=4) w
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Contact: Donna Krupa
djkrupa1@aol.com
703-527-7357
American Physiological Society
19-Apr-2004


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