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Constant lighting may disrupt development of preemies' biological clocks

its with constant lighting. Other studies have found that infants placed in units that maintain a day/night cycle gain weight faster than those in units with constant light.

The research is a follow-up from a study that the McMahon group published last year which found that long periods of constant light disrupt the synchronization of the biological clock in adult mice. In all mammals, including mice and humans, the master biological clock is located in an area of the brain called the suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN). It influences the activity of a surprising number of organs, including the brain, heart, liver and lungs and regulates the daily activity cycles known as circadian rhythms.

The SCN is filled with special neurons that are wired in such a way that their activity varies on a regular cycle of roughly 24 hours. In a normal brain, the activity of these clock neurons is synchronized to a single cycle which is set by the 24-hour day/night cycle.

McMahon's previous study found that the SCN neurons in adult mice begin drifting out of phase after a mouse is exposed to constant light for about five months and that this is accompanied by a breakdown in their ability to maintain their normal nocturnal cycle.

"After we got this result, my post-doctoral fellow, Hidenobu Ohta, who is now a pediatrician at Tohoku University Hospital in Japan, wanted to study the impact of constant light on newborn mice because he was interested in finding out whether the use of constant light in NICUs may be having a similar effect," McMahon said.

Newborn mice provide a good model for premature human infants because baby mice are born at an earlier stage of development than humans, a stage closely equivalent to that of premature babies.

"We found that the newborn mice were even more vulnerable to the effects of constant light than the adults," McMahon said.

The researchers took two groups of newborn mice. One group wa
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Contact: David F. Salisbury
david.salisbury@vanderbilt.edu
615-343-6803
Vanderbilt University
21-Aug-2006


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