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Optic nerve disease may cause sleep disorders

help synchronize the body's sleep/wake cycle, reset the internal body clock, control the pupil of the eye's response to light and regulate the release of hormones such as melatonin. These ipRG cells continue to gather and use information about light even in animals that otherwise are visually blind.

"In our basic research, we have demonstrated that animals that lack rods and cones in the retina still have very normal circadian, or body clock, functions," he says. "But animals that lack the ganglion, or 'light meter' cells cannot synchronize their clocks to the outside world."

The ipRG cells that act as the eye's light meter are concentrated together at the head of the optic nerve, so Van Gelder's team wondered whether children with optic nerve disease might have problems regulating their internal body clocks. To measure the impact of the loss of those cells, first author Raymond Wee, a graduate student in Van Gelder's laboratory, had participants wear a device known as a wrist-worn actigraph. Worn like a watch, the actigraph measures every movement a person makes. A sophisticated computer algorithm then uses this movement information to determine whether a person was awake or asleep, active or inactive. Children in the study wore the actigraphs every day for two weeks.

Those with optic nerve disease had highly variable wake-up times and also had trouble falling asleep, compared to blind children without optic nerve damage and sighted children. Those sleep problems led them to nap more frequently, and children with optic nerve disease napped, on average, about 28 minutes a day.

None of the children in the study had any other conditions that might contribute to sleep disorders. None took sedative drugs, had attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or were being treated with stimulant medications. So, the researchers believe the sleep problems these children experienced were directly related to their eye disease.

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Contact: Jim Dryden
jdryden@wustl.edu
314-286-0110
Washington University School of Medicine
1-Feb-2004


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