4 Things You Must Know About Your ‘Third Eye’ – One Of The BIGGEST Secret Kept From Humanity


Located in nearly the direct center of the brain, the tiny pinecone-shaped pineal gland, which habitually secretes the wondrous neurohormone melatonin while we sleep at night, was once thought to be a vestigial leftover from a lower evolutionary state.

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Indeed, according to recent research, we could be increasing our chances of contracting chronic illnesses like cancer by unnecessarily bathing its evenings in artificial light, working night shifts or staying up too late. By disrupting the pineal gland and melatonin’s chronobiological connection to Earth’s rotational 24-hour light and dark cycle, known as its circadian rhythm, we’re possibly opening the doors not to perception, but to disease and disorder. A recently published study from Vanderbilt University has found associations between circadian disruption and heart disease, diabetes and obesity.

By hacking what pinealophiles call our mind’s third eye with an always-on technoculture transmitting globally at light-speed, we may have disadvantaged our genetic ability to ward off all manner of complicated nightmares. No wonder the pineal gland is a pop-culture staple for sci-fi, fantasy and horror fandom, as well as a mass attractor of mystics and mentalists. Its powers to divide and merge our light and dark lives only seems to grow the more we take it seriously.

We still lack a complete understanding of the pineal gland,” University of Michigan professor of physiology and neurology Jimo Borjigin, a pioneer in medical visualization of the pineal gland’s melatonin secretion, says. “Numerous molecules are found in the pineal, many of which are uniquely found at night, and we do not have a good idea of what their functions are. The only function that is established beyond doubt is the melatonin synthesis and secretion at night, which is controlled by the central clock in the suprachiasmatic nucleus and modulated by light. All else is speculative.”

Discerning between the science and speculation of the pineal gland hasn’t been easy since long before Rene Descartes called it the principal seat of the soul after studying it at length nearly four centuries ago. (Although “no evidence exists to support this,” clarified Borjigin.) So here’s a handy shortlist of things you should know about the pineal gland.

1. Third Eyes and Theosophistry

The current scientific understanding is that the pineal gland probably started out as an eye, and it receives signals from light and our retinas. Whether it was our only eye which shrunk into the brain once its perceptive tasks were taken care of by our two newer eyes, or whether it was a third eye with a spiritual and physical connection to previous spiritual and evolutionary states, or both, has galvanized science and speculation for centuries.

Earth’s ancient cultural histories are filled with folklore featuring both one-eyed and three-eyed beings of great power, from Shiva and Cyclops to that amiable fellow in The Twilight Zone’s classic episode, Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up? and beyond. (From Beyond even: See below.) Associations can be found in Hinduism, whose seventh primary chakra Sahasara is a multilayered lotus that looks like the pineal gland’s pinecone, and whose primary function is to perceive universal oneness, scientifically and spiritually speaking. Theosophists, who have been studying what they perceive as hidden knowledge since the Greeks and Romans ruled philosophical and scientific inquiry, have more recently claimed that the pineal gland is the spiritual engine of our evolution into “embryo gods, beings of consciousness and matter.”

That description seems apt, given the astronomical power we have achieved in a few million yeas of evolution. While Homo sapiens’ third eyes likely transformed into pineal glands along the way, today we can still find animals with photoreceptive third eyes, now called parietal eyes, like New Zealand’s endangered tuatara. Fossils from other ancient creatures feature similar sockets in their skulls, making our pineal gland a candidate for an ex-eye.

2. What Was Once Hidden Is Now Hi-Res

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Michigan University professor Borjigin and his team are hard at work on how the pineal gland and melatonin regulate our lives.

“The central circadian clock controls timing of almost all aspects of our life, including physiology and behavior, and melatonin is the best marker to decode the fingerprints of circadian timing in both humans and animals,” he said. “In the past, it was very difficult to study circadian properties of melatonin in animals due to technical limitations. My lab invented long-term pineal microdialysis, which permits automated, computer-controlled and high-resolution analysis of melatonin secretion from rodent pineal gland from four to 10 weeks in the same animal.”

These visualizations could go a long way toward understanding how to hack melatonin, which the pineal gland secretes when we sleep and helps the brain repair and sync our bodies to Earth’s rotation. Melatonin is a stunning compound, found naturally in plants, animals and microbes. A powerful antioxidant, its list of its medicinal uses only seems to grow each year, as we learn more about its ability to help with immune disorders, chronic illnesses, and neurodegeneration.

“Pineal microdialysis allows us to monitor melatonin secretion closely under various conditions to simulate jet lag, shiftwork, light pollution, diet manipulation and more to define the fingerprints of circadian response to environment,” he added. “It also allows us to discover animals with extreme chronotypes, like early-birds or night-owls, to understand how individuals with different chronotype respond to circadian challenges differently. These are still ongoing studies, but hopefully some of the works will be published this year.”

3. Artificial Light = Dark Future

What has been recently published about melatonin is already pretty significant, especially for those looking to combat breast and prostate cancer. Harvard University School of Public Health researcher Itai Kloog and his group published a series of studies in the last few years explaining how our “modern urbanized sleeping habitat” (PDF) is a massive hormone-based cancer risk. “We have blotted out the night sky” with artificial light, wrote Earth Island Journal’s Holly Hayworth,” citing Kloog’s research and noting that half that light is wasted anyway.

“We’ve proven beyond a doubt that it’s a risk factor,” Kloog told me. “Light at night has been proven on many levels, by our group and many others, to definitely contribute to higher risk of developing hormonal cancer.”

Kloog’s team published five studies altogether, including analyses at local and global levels, and all of them found firm correlations between circadian and melatonin disruption and higher risks of cancer. Analyzing NASA’s Defense Meteorological Satellite Program archive (to illuminate Earth’s light-at-night coverage) and data from the World Health Organization, Kloog’s group “found clearly that as women were more exposed to light at nighttime, their rates of breast cancer went up. Our Israel study found that going from minimum exposure to average exposure to light at night resulted in a 36 percent higher standard rate of breast cancer, and going from average to maximum was another 26 percent increase.”

Using kernel smoothing to create density maps showing light exposure and cancer rates, Kloog’s team found that another of its studies, which sourced more than 20,000 light sources by height and intensity, showed a clear association. For their two worldwide studies, they developed an algorithm to assign population weight average light exposure for every person in every city across the world, using WHO data, and again they found a clear association between cancer and light at night.

“For average light exposure per person, if you take an underdeveloped country like Nepal, we’re talking about 0.02 nanowatts per centimeter squared,” Kloog explained. “Compare that to the United States, where the average light exposure of a person is 57.5. Up until around 120 years ago, humans were basically exposed to 12 hours of sunlight and 12 hours of darkness on average, seasons and latitudes permitting of course. But since the invention of the lightbulb, we’ve artificially stretched the day. We go to sleep late at night, we have lights on while we sleep, we have a shorter sleep duration. We have a lot of factors stretching out our days, relative to the light period we experienced during millions of years of previous evolution.”

“It’s something that’s easy to take out of the equation,” Kloog told me. “Go to sleep in a dark room. Use less light. Close the shutters. Circadian disruption is carcinogenic to humans.”

4. Occult Classic

This is not to say that late-night viewing itself isn’t good for the mind, especially when it comes to pineal glands and third eyes. Because pineal glands and third eyes remain singular components of an otherwise binary brain with an extraordinary past, they have stimulated some stranger explorations of their spiritual and supernatural possibility. The pineal gland’s circadian dualism has achieved particular resonance with influential occultists like horror influential H.P. Lovecraft. Who, in turn, have spawned new generations of speculative talents that have used it as a quite flexible receptacle for expansive meaning.

“My first exposure to the pineal gland came from Stuart Gordon’s movie adaptation of Lovecraft’s From Beyond,” Javier Grillo-Marxuach, creator of the cult sci-fi television classic The Middleman, told AlterNet. “In truth, everything I know about that particular endocrine body probably derives from that seminal experience, which explains why I am a television writer and not a brain surgeon.”

In From Beyond, a supernaturally activated pineal gland turns mad scientists into brain-eating zombies. The recently reissued 1957 exploitation film She Devil features a “female monster” whose hyperstimulated pineal gland turns her into “a demon, a devil, a creature with a warped soul!” In both films, and many other third-eye head-trips, the pineal gland functions as a sexualized organ, rather than a circadian regulator. Today, some use melatonin supplements, available since the ’90s, to aid with sexual dysfunction. But the pineal gland’s expansive mythic and scientific history has much broader applications when it comes to folklore and entertainment.

“In The Middleman, we quickly discovered that because this most mysterious of glands is so misunderstood, even though its very name connotes a certain frisson of scientific accuracy and technical understanding, it was a fantastic shorthand for whatever otherworldly qualities we needed to justify,” Grillo-Marxuach added. “Over the course of 12 episodes, the pineal gland became the source of psychic ability, communication between parallel dimensions, the magical influence of succubi and incubi over the libidos of ordinary mortals and, finally, the power source for our main supervillain’s armageddon device. Since Stuart Gordon and H.P. Lovecraft gave me such a gift in my teenage years by providing me with so fanciful an understanding of cerebral anatomy, I figured I’d pay the favor forward as many times as possible.”

How Sunflowers Follow the Sun’s Path: A Circadian Clock Revealed


Sunflower seeds are packed with nutrients, great for snacks and are a tasty addition to your salad. Sunflower plants have also given scientists a peek into the world of how plants use circadian rhythms to improve their growth and ensure propagation.

Sunflower Plants

Story at-a-glance

  • Sunflower plants are giving scientists a look into how circadian clocks affect not only mammals, but also help control growth in plants
  • Circadian clocks appear to control not only growth, but also increase heat to the plant attracting more pollinating insects, which are important for seed development
  • Sunflower seeds and sprouts pack a powerful punch in your diet and may even he

The sunflower is native to North America but commercialization of the plant took place in Russia.1 Archaeologists believe that sunflowers may have been domesticated by American Indian tribes before corn. Canada started the first official breeding program in 1930.

Although the domesticated plant has only one large flower or head, you may find wild plants throughout North America with multiple heads, sometimes as many as 20 on a plant.2 Most of the sunflowers grown commercially in the U.S. are found in California, Dakotas, Texas, Minnesota, Kansas, Colorado and Nebraska.

Circadian Rhythm Found in Young Sunflower Plants

This short video demonstrates how the sunflower plant follows the sun, and shows the difference between the number of pollinating insects on plants facing east and those facing west.

Circadian clocks play an important role in your health and wellness. Plant biologists from the University of California (UC) discovered the movements of the sunflower plant are triggered by internal hormones, just as your circadian clock is ruled by hormones.

This discovery was a collaboration between molecular biologist Stacey Harmer, Ph.D., from UC-Davis and her colleague, assistant professor Benjamin Blackman, Ph.D., from UC-Berkley. Lead author Harmer told Science Daily:

“It’s the first example of a plant’s clock modulating growth in a natural environment, and having real repercussions for the plant.3

Under normal circumstances, young sunflower plants appear to orient themselves in response to the sun. In the morning, their flower and leaves are pointed eastward, and as the day passes the leaves gradually move westward.

However, the truly unique movement happens at night, as the leaves return to facing eastward in anticipation of the rising sun. This behavior of the plants has been described as far back as 1898, but has never been associated with circadian rhythms before.

According to this new study, the sunflower uses both heliotropism (the response to sunlight) and circadian rhythm to improve growth performance.4 When staked and unable to move in response to the sun, the plant had less biomass in the stem and less leaf area.5

Staked plants also had fewer visits from pollinating insects. Ann Sylvester, director of the National Sleep Foundation’s Plant Genome Research Program, which funded the study, was quoted in the Christian Science Monitor saying:6

“Just like people, plants rely on the daily rhythms of day and night to function. Sunflowers, like solar panel arrays, follow the sun from east to west. These researchers tap into information in the sunflower genome to understand how and why sunflowers track the sun.”

The Importance of Pollination

The reduction in visits from pollinators was also an important find. By studying the plants using infrared cameras, the researchers found the plants that started the day facing eastward would warm more quickly than those staked or moved to continue facing westward.7

The warmth attracted five times more insects responsible for pollinating the plants. When the plants that were forced to face westward were warmed with portable heaters, the number of pollinating insects increased to the same level found in the uninterrupted plants.

Production of the sunflower seeds, for which the plant is famous, depends upon pollination. In fact, almost every flowering plant in the world depends upon pollination to produce seeds.

Pollination has a fascinating history but it also plays an essential role in survival of the plant. Bees and other pollinating insects improve the flavor and size of the fruit by providing genetic diversity. In the U.S. alone, the value of pollination for agricultural crops is $10 billion.8

The Process of 2 Mechanisms Control the Sunflower Plant

Harmer and her team discovered two different mechanisms that appear to control both the movement and the growth of a young sunflower plant as it moves from east to west and back again.

But, not all sunflower plants follow the sun. As the researchers demonstrated, it is only the young plants that move with the sun across the sky. As they mature, the plants continue to face eastward without movement.9

Two mechanisms control plants’ movement throughout the day and night. Genes are implicated in the control of growth triggered by light, but not the growth patterns that cause the plant to re-orient during the night hours to face east.10

The researchers found that when the plants faced to the east, the stem on that side grew more rapidly, and the reverse was true at night as the plant turned from west to east.11

The interactions between the environmental responses and the internal circadian clock coordinate the two physiological processes, which scientists can predict. These influence both growth of the plant and reproduction, important to the production of seeds.

Harmer believes there may be two growth processes. Based on available light, the first sets a basic growth rate, while the second is controlled by a circadian clock and influenced by the direction of the light. Harmer, quoted in the Christian Science Monitor, says:12

“A really common misconception is that mature sunflowers follow the sun, actually, they do not. Mature sunflowers always face east. At nighttime, you could see the whole plant rearranging itself, and it was such an amazing thing.

I tell my students all the time that plants are capable of incredible things — we just don’t notice because their time scale is different than ours.”

Circadian Rhythms Also Affect You

Circadian rhythms or circadian clocks are also important to your health. Just as the plants’ rate of growth was stunted when their orientation to the light affected their circadian clock, so is your health negatively affected when hormones and light sources affecting your sleep are changed.

Your circadian rhythms affect you physically, mentally and behaviorally, and roughly follow a 24-hour schedule.13 Your body releases hormones in response to light and dark, affecting your ability to fall asleep and to enjoy quality sleep.

This internal biological clock regulates your sleepiness and wakefulness throughout the day and night. Adults experience their strongest sleep drive between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m., and in the afternoon between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. The intensity of sleepiness you experience will depend upon whether you’ve had sufficient amounts of sleep.14

During the morning hours, when light strikes your optic nerve, the signal travels to your suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN). This is a group of cells in your hypothalamus that respond to light and dark.

Exposure to light reduces your production of melatonin and increases production of cortisol to wake you up.15 When your circadian rhythm is interrupted it affects several different processes, including the following:

Short term memory

The part of your brain known as the hippocampus must be excited in order for the things you learn to be organized in such a way that you’ll remember them later. When your internal clock isn’t functioning properly, you release too much GABA, leading to poor short term memory and an inability to retain new information.16

Creativity and learning performance

Proper sleep enhances performance, learning and memory by improving your creative ability to uncover novel connections between seemingly unrelated ideas.

Weight gain/loss

Research has demonstrated that lack of sleep affects levels of metabolic hormones that regulate satiety and hunger, leading to weight gain. When sleep deprived, your body decreases production of leptin, the hormone that tells your brain there is no need for more food. At the same time it increases levels of ghrelin, a hormone that triggers hunger.17

Diabetes and heart disease risk

Both too little and too much sleep may increase your risk of type 2 diabetes. A 15-year study of more than 1,000 men found that those getting less than six or more than eight hours of sleep a night had a significantly increased diabetes risk.18

Immune system

Research has found that when you are well-rested your body may respond to viruses more effectively. Disruption of your circadian clock may also influence cancer progression through changes in hormones like melatonin, which your brain makes during sleep, and which is known to suppress tumor development. When your circadian rhythm is disrupted, your body may produce less melatonin and therefore may have less ability to fight cancer.

Can This Little Seed Protect Your Brain?

The nutrient levels in sunflower seeds pack a big punch. One-quarter cup has a little over 200 calories, and they’re an excellent source of vitamin E. The seeds are also high in manganese, copper, vitamins B1, B3 and B6, selenium, phosphorus, magnesium and folate.19

One-quarter cup of seeds provides your body with well over half the amount of copper you need each day. Your body uses copper to maintain skin and hair, to produce melanin and support your body’s cells in the production of energy. Maintaining your copper and zinc balance is important to your health and to supporting your immune system. The best way to accomplish this is through the food you eat.

The antioxidant power of vitamin E may help reduce your risk of colon cancer, decrease the frequency and intensity of hot flashes in menopausal women and may help reduce the development of complications from type 2 diabetes.20 High levels of vitamin E are also associated with lower risk of cognitive decline as you grow older.21

Brain protection doesn’t end with vitamin E and cognitive decline. Sunflower seeds are also packed with magnesium, known to have a positive effect on your mood. Although the mechanism of action is not well understood, clinical studies dating as far back as 100 years have found health benefits from magnesium.22 Magnesium is a valuable addition to the treatment and prevention of depression.

Kidney has a circadian clock that controls all metabolic process.


You sure didn’t know this. Kidneys have an internal clock which plays an important role in maintaining balance within the body, a new study has found.

Many of the body’s processes follow a natural daily rhythm or circadian clock that is based on regular light-dark cycles as the Earth rotates. Now, researchers have demonstrated that the kidney possesses such an intrinsic circadian clock that regulates and coordinates a variety of the organ’s functions.

“Since urine formation and excretion by the kidney is one of the most easily detectable rhythmic processes (we are forming and excreting much more urine during the day), we hypothesised that at least a part of this rhythmicity is dependent on the circadian clock mechanism,” said Natsuko Tokonami from University of Lausanne in Switzerland.

By blocking kidney cells’ expression of a gene that is critically involved in the circadian clock system, researchers found that the clock is responsible for the temporal adaptation of kidney function to the light and dark phases of the day that correspond to activity and rest.

Such adaptations have an important effect on the levels of various amino acids, lipids, and other components of blood in the body, researchers said. Furthermore, in individuals who take medications, the kidney’s circadian clock controls the process of drug elimination from the body and therefore can influence the duration of a drug’s action and the effectiveness of the therapy, they said.

“We have shown that the circadian clock in the kidney plays an important role in different metabolic and homeostatic processes at both the intra-renal and systemic levels and is involved in drug disposition,” said Dmitri Firsov from University of Lausanne. The findings were published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (JASN).

CAFFEINE AT NIGHT MESSES WITH YOUR BIOLOGICAL CLOCK


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It’s no secret that slugging down caffeinated drinks in the evening can disrupt sleep.

But a new study led by the University of Colorado Boulder and the Medical Research Council’s Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England shows for the first time that evening caffeine delays the internal circadian clock that tells us when to get ready for sleep and when to prepare to wake up. The research team showed the amount of caffeine in a double espresso or its equivalent three hours before bedtime induced a 40-minute phase delay in the roughly 24-hour human biological clock.

The study also showed for the first time how caffeine affects “cellular timekeeping” in the human body, said CU-Boulder Professor Kenneth Wright, who co-led the study with John O’Neill of the Medical Research Council’s Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB) in Cambridge. While it has been known that caffeine influences circadian clocks of even primitive creatures like algae and fruit flies, the new study shows that the internal clocks in human cells can be impacted by caffeine intake.

“This is the first study to show that caffeine, the mostly widely used psychoactive drug in the world, has an influence on the human circadian clock,” said Wright, a professor in CU-Boulder’s Department of Integrative Physiology. “It also provides new and exciting insights into the effects of caffeine on human physiology.”

A paper on the subject led by Wright and O’Neill is being published online in the Sept 16 issue of Science Translational Medicine.

For the study the team recruited five human subjects, three females and two males, who went though a double-blind, placebo-controlled 49-day protocol through CU-Boulder’s Sleep and Chronobiology Laboratory, which is directed by Wright. The subjects were tested under four conditions: low light and a placebo pill; low light and the equivalent of a 200-milligram caffeine pill dependent on the subject’s weight; bright light and a placebo pill; and bright light and the caffeine pill.

Saliva samples of each participant were tested periodically during the study for levels of the hormone melatonin, which is produced naturally by the pineal gland when directed to do so by the brain’s “master clock.” The master clock is re-set by exposure to light and coordinates cellular clocks throughout the human body. Melatonin levels in the blood increase to signal the onset of biological nighttime during each 24-hour period and decrease at the start of biological daytime, said Wright.

Those who took the caffeine pill under low-light conditions were found to have a roughly 40-minute delay in their nightly circadian rhythm compared to those who took the placebo pill under low light conditions, said Wright. The magnitude of delay from the caffeine dose was about half that of the delay induced in test subjects by a three-hour exposure to bright, overhead light that began at each person’s normal bedtime.

The study also showed that bright light alone and bright light combined with caffeine induced circadian phase delays in the test subjects of about 85 minutes and 105 minutes respectively. There were no significant differences between the dim light/caffeine combination and the bright light/placebo combination. Nor were there significant differences between the bright light/placebo and bright light/caffeine combinations. The results may indicate a “ceiling” was reached in the phase delay of the human circadian clock due to the external factors, Wright said.

In addition, researchers at O’Neill’s lab at the LMB in Cambridge used “reporter” genes that made cells glow when the clock genes were expressed to measure changes caused by caffeine. O’Neill’s group showed that caffeine can block cell receptors of the neurotransmitter adenosine, which normally promotes sleep and suppresses arousal.

The results may help to explain why caffeine-drinking “night owls” go to bed later and wake up later and may have implications for the treatment of some circadian sleep-wake disorders, said Wright.

The new results could benefit travelers. Properly timed caffeine use could help shift the circadian clocks of those flying west over multiple time zones, said Wright.

In a 2013 study, Wright and his research team showed one week of camping in the Rocky Mountains with no artificial light, not even flashlights, synchronized the circadian clocks of the eight study subjects with the timing of sunrise and sunset.

 

E-Readers Foil Good Night’s Sleep


Light-emitting electronic devices keep readers awake longer than old-fashioned print.

Use of a light-emitting electronic book (LE-eBook) in the hours before bedtime can adversely impact overall health, alertness and the circadian clock, which synchronizes the daily rhythm of sleep to external environmental time cues, according to Harvard Medical School researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. These findings of the study that compared the biological effects of reading an LE-eBook to a printed book are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on December 22, 2014.

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“We found the body’s natural circadian rhythms were interrupted by the short-wavelength enriched light, otherwise known as blue light, from these electronic devices,” said Anne-Marie Chang, corresponding author and associate neuroscientist at Brigham and Women’s Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders. “Participants reading an LE-eBook took longer to fall asleep and had reduced evening sleepiness, reduced melatonin secretion, later timing of their circadian clock and reduced next-morning alertness than when reading a printed book.”

Previous research has shown that blue light suppresses melatonin, impacts the circadian clock and increases alertness, but little was known about the effects of this popular technology on sleep. The use of light-emitting devices immediately before bedtime is a concern because of the extremely powerful effect that light has on the body’s natural sleep/wake pattern and how that may play a role in perpetuating sleep deficiency.

During the two-week inpatient study, twelve participants read digital books on an iPad for four hours before bedtime each night for five consecutive nights. This was repeated with printed books. The order was randomized with some reading on the iPad first and others reading the printed book first. Participants reading on the iPad took longer to fall asleep, were less sleepy in the evening and spent less time in REM sleep. They had reduced secretion of melatonin, a hormone that normally rises in the evening and plays a role in inducing sleepiness. Additionally, iPad readers had a delayed circadian rhythm, indicated by melatonin levels, of more than an hour. Participants who read on the iPad were less sleepy before bedtime but were sleepier and less alert the following morning after eight hours of sleep. Although iPads were used in this study, researchers also measured other devices that emit blue light, including eReaders, laptops, cell phones and LED monitors.

“In the past 50 years, there has been a decline in average sleep duration and quality,” said Charles Czeisler, the HMS Frank Baldino, Jr., Ph.D. Professor of Sleep Medicine and chief of the Brigham and Women’s Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders. “Since more people are choosing electronic devices for reading, communication and entertainment, particularly children and adolescents who already experience significant sleep loss, epidemiological research evaluating the long-term consequences of these devices on health and safety is urgently needed.”

Researchers emphasize the importance of these findings, given recent evidence linking chronic suppression of melatonin secretion by nocturnal light exposure with the increased risk of breast cancer, colorectal cancer and prostate cancer.

LIGHT-EMITTING E-READERS BEFORE BEDTIME CAN ADVERSELY IMPACT SLEEP


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Use of a light-emitting electronic device (LE-eBook) in the hours before bedtime can adversely impact overall health, alertness, and the circadian clock which synchronizes the daily rhythm of sleep to external environmental time cues, according to researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) who compared the biological effects of reading an LE-eBook compared to a printed book.  These findings of the study are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on December 22, 2014.

“We found the body’s natural circadian rhythms were interrupted by the short-wavelength enriched light, otherwise known as blue light, from these electronic devices,” said Anne-Marie Chang, PhD, corresponding author, and associate neuroscientist in BWH’s Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders. “Participants reading an LE-eBook took longer to fall asleep and had reduced evening sleepiness, reduced melatonin secretion, later timing of their circadian clock and reduced next-morning alertness than when reading a printed book.”

Previous research has shown that blue light suppresses melatonin, impacts the circadian clock and increase alertness, but little was known about the effects of this popular technology on sleep.   The use of light emitting devices immediately before bedtime is a concern because of the extremely powerful effect that light has on the body’s natural sleep/wake pattern, and may thereby play a role in perpetuating sleep deficiency.

During the two-week inpatient study, twelve participants read LE-e-Books on an iPad for four hours before bedtime each night for five consecutive nights. This was repeated with printed books.  The order was randomized with some reading the iPad first and others reading the printed book first.  Participants reading on the iPad took longer to fall asleep, were less sleepy in the evening, and spent less time in REM sleep.  The iPad readers had reduced secretion of melatonin, a hormone which normally rises in the evening and plays a role in inducing sleepiness.  Additionally, iPad readers had a delayed circadian rhythm, indicated by melatonin levels, of more than an hour.  Participants who read from the iPad were less sleepy before bedtime, but sleepier and less alert the following morning after eight hours of sleep.  Although iPads were used in this study, BWH researchers also measured other eReaders, laptops, cell phones, LED monitors, and other electronic devices, all emitting blue light.

“In the past 50 years, there has been a decline in average sleep duration and quality,” stated Charles Czeisler, PhD, MD, FRCP, chief, BWH Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders.   “Since more people are choosing electronic devices for reading, communication and entertainment, particularly children and adolescents who already experience significant sleep loss, epidemiological research evaluating the long-term consequences of these devices on health and safety is urgently needed.”

Researchers emphasize the importance of these findings, given recent evidence linking chronic suppression of melatonin secretion by nocturnal light exposure with the increased risk of breast cancer, colorectal cancer and prostate cancer.

STUDY FINDS CIRCADIAN CLOCK RHYTHMS ALTERED IN DEPRESSION.


UC Irvine Health researchers have helped discover that genes controlling circadian clock rhythms are profoundly altered in the brains of people with severe depression. These clock genes regulate 24-hour circadian rhythms affecting hormonal, body temperature, sleep and behavioral patterns.

Depression is a serious disorder with a high risk for suicide affecting approximately one in 10 Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control, and is ranked as fourth of all diseases by the World Health Organization in terms of lifetime disability. Study findings provide the first evidence of altered circadian gene rhythms in brain tissue of people with depression and suggest a physical basis for many of the symptoms that depressed patients report.

The study – which appears online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences – involved researchers from UC Irvine Health, University of Michigan, UC Davis, Cornell University, the Hudson Alpha Institute for Biotechnology and Stanford University.

“Our findings involved the analysis of a large amount of data involving 12,000 gene transcripts obtained from donated brain tissue from depressed and normal people. We were amazed that our data revealed that clock gene rhythms varied in synchrony across six regions of normal human brain and that these rhythms were significantly disrupted in depressed patients. The findings provide clues for potential new classes of compounds to rapidly treat depression that may reset abnormal clock genes and normalize circadian rhythms,” said Dr. William Bunney, the study’s senior author, and Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry & Human Behavior at UC Irvine.

Circadian clock genes play an important role in regulating many body rhythms over a 24-hour cycle. Although animal data provide evidence for the circadian expression of genes in brain, little has been known as to whether there is a similar rhythmicity in the human brain.

In the study, the researchers analyzed genome-wide gene expression patterns in brain samples from 55 individuals with no history of psychiatric or neurological illness and compared them to the expression patterns in samples from 34 severely depressed patients.

The investigators isolated multiple RNA samples from six regions of each brain and arranged the gene expression data around a 24-hour cycle based on time of death. Several hundred genes in each of six brain regions displayed rhythmic patterns of expression over the 24-hour cycle, including many genes essential to the body’s circadian machinery.

In the end, they had a near-complete understanding of how gene activity varied throughout the day in the cells of the six brain regions they studied.

“There really was a moment of discovery when we realized that many of the genes that we saw expressed in the normal individuals were well-known circadian rhythm genes – and when we saw that the people with depression were not synchronized to the usual solar day in terms of this gene activity,” said Jun Li, an assistant professor in the Department of Human Genetics at the University of Michigan who led the analysis of the massive amount of data generated by the rest of the team.

The researchers add that this information can be used to help find new ways to predict depression, and fine-tune treatment for depressed patients.

Source: http://www.som.uci.edu