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Neuroscience & Behavior
Master of Science (M.S.)
Year Degree Awarded
Month Degree Awarded
Circadian rhythms, sleep-wake disorders, jet-lag, seasonal affective disorder, serotonin, neuropeptide Y
Circadian rhythms in physiology and behavior are synchronized by a central pacemaker, the suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN) of the hypothalamus. Shift work, jet lag and sleep disorders can disrupt circadian rhythms, negatively impacting health and well-being. The SCN pacemaker resets rapidly in response to changes in the daily light cycle, however, adjustment of peripheral oscillators to changing time zones or work shifts is more gradual, leading to internal desynchrony. In addition, many diseases can impair the SCN’s ability to adjust to changes in the light cycle. My research investigated whether combined pharmacological inhibition of neuropeptide Y and serotonin could enhance resetting and attenuate transient cycles in locomotor activity following a sudden change in light exposure. I found that simultaneously blocking neuropeptide Y and serotonin receptors potentiated phase shifts during the late subjective night and significantly reduced transient cycles of locomotor activity in hamsters. Development of treatments that enhance the circadian system’s response to light may alleviate some of the negative health consequences experienced by travelers, shift workers and individuals with disease-related circadian desynchrony.
Mary E Harrington