Psychology Degree Guide: Biotiming
Your internal biological clock really does exist. Automatic processes in your body greatly affect your sleep schedule, and are even responsible for you feeling tired. An advanced evolutionary technology, your biological clock adjusts to environmental stimuli such as light, and can even set itself. In line with our tradition of creating high quality psychological resources, the Guide to Biotiming will elucidate the subject. Presented are highly informative references suitable for breaking into the area of biological processes. Other more focused and specific resources have been exhibited for furthering your knowledge.
Biotiming entails biological processes and cyclical physiological changes that occur regularly. Actually a collection of complex processes referred to as circadian rhythms, the biological clock dictates a plethora of physiological characteristics and behaviors. Body temperature, blood pressure, and digestive secretions are just a few of the affected traits. Even brain chemistry is acted upon; neurotransmitters and regulatory hormones are produced. These biotiming processes repeat once daily, persist regardless of external stimuli, are entrainable, and are maintained throughout changes to temperature. The previous criteria must be met by biological rhythms in order to be considered circadian. Each qualification is in place in order to construct a reliable twenty-four hour process that will adjust to surrounding environmental factors.
Circadian rhythms are the primary subject of a study known as Chronobiology. This formal science explores the temporal cycles of living organisms. It is important to note that other cycles such as infradian rhythms, ultradian rhythms, and tidal rhythms contribute to a large portion of research in the field. Incorporating physiology, cellular biology, and evolutionary biology, Chronobiology attempts to understand naturally occurring time related processes in a variety of creatures.
The “master clock” that determines the sleep-wake cycle can be found in the brain. Despite the variety of processes that circadian rhythms influence, the sleep-wake cycle is arguably its most significant function. In humans, the sleep-wake cycle typically consists of eight hours of nocturnal sleep, and sixteen hours of day activity. Located in the hypothalamus, the suprachiasmatic nuclei (abbreviated SCN) coordinate the neuronal network affiliated with biological rhythms. Known colloquially as the “master clock” because of its essential role, the SCN responds to external stimuli such as light in order to establish a baseline. From there, the pineal complex reacts to the perceived length of the day, and secretes a hormone called melatonin. Directly affecting alertness and performance, melatonin is most commonly released during the night for diurnal mammals.
Introduction to the Biological Clock
Primarily, the biological clock is known to control the sleep-wake cycle, determining the quality and duration of rest. If a consistent sleep schedule is maintained, your body will know when to wake up, and when to go to sleep. The following resources should illustrate the principals of the biological clock, and describe major structures involved in the process. Though circadian rhythms have been observed in many species including fungi, plants, and animals, the primary focus of this guide will be on human biological rhythms.
- The Biological Clockworks Glossary defines essential terms and concepts used in the study of biological clockworks. Among the definitions are important genes, processes, and physiological components.
- The Howard Hughes Medical Institute examines the suprachiasmatic nucleus found in humans. Emphasizing anatomical structure, an animation locating the SCN in the human brain is included. Many additional multimedia resources are provided here in order to accurately convey biological concepts.
- Circadian.org provides detailed information regarding circadian rhymicity, the internal clock, and environmental synchronizers. The logical presentation of information clearly displays separate important concepts related to biotiming.
- Circadian Rhythms Fact Sheet – Circadian rhythms are explained in relation to biological clocks. Reliant on the “master clock,” circadian rhythms dictate some physiological, cognitive and behavioral changes.
- Biological Rhythms Presentation – Acting as a helpful introduction to the topic, Linda Walsh’s lecture slides consider broad topics involved in timed biological processes. Content includes a general overview of biological clocks, melatonin, the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) as well as disorders.
- Inno Vita Research explains the function of the pineal gland in relation to biological rhythmicity. The provided excerpt shows correlations between growth/aging, and the pineal complex.
- The Pineal Gland and Melatonin elaborates on the role of the pineal gland and melatonin in biotiming. Having a dramatic impact on sleep, melatonin dictates sleep length and reproductive qualities for seasonally breeding mammals.
- Circadian and Seasonal Rhythms considers the correlations between the biological clock and organs of the body. Buijs, van Eden, Goncharuk and Kalsbeek look at how hormones related to biologically timed processes affect the operation of organs through the autonomic nervous system..
- The role of circadian rhythmicity in reproduction – David Kennaway proposes that circadian rhythmicity determines reproductive characteristics in humans. Positing that biological rhythmicity may be responsible for optimizing fertility, this study challenges the biological and psychological research communities to further test the interactions between biotiming and reproduction.
Disorders of the Sleep-Wake Cycle
Numerous factors affect the Sleep-Wake Cycle including everyday activities, sleep behavior, and even traveling across time zones. Stimuli known as entrainment agents provide cues to our bodies indicating when to sleep. Sometimes called zeitgebers (literally time-givers in German), these time indicators establish circadian rhythms. When environmental stimuli are not available, circadian rhythms are known as “free-running.” Disrupted circadian rhythms cause disorders that result in inconsistent sleep patterns, and may alter other physiological processes.
- Disorders of the Sleep/Wake Cycle discusses common disorders such as delayed sleep phase syndrome, irregular sleep-wake pattern, and shift work sleep disorder. Highly focused on circadian rhythms and the CLOCK gene, this website hosts extensive information regarding biological timing.
- Sleep and Circadian Rhythm Disorders – WebMD hosts this simple overview of circadian rhythm disorders. Effectively presenting the details surrounding sleep disorders, this resource is helpful for understanding the greater context.
- Effects of afternoon “siesta” naps on sleep, alertness, performance, and circadian rhythms in the elderly – Providing an interesting look into the role of naps and their effects on the sleep wake cycle, this article by Monk et al. .After analyzing the collected data, it was found that naps contributed to heightened evening performance while negatively affecting nocturnal sleep
- Entrainment of Free-Running Circadian Rhythms – Found at the New England Journal of Medicine website, “Entrainment of Free-Running Circadian Rhythms” details how free-running circadian rhythms operate in the blind. Free-Running circadian rhythms are not match with environmental time cues such as light, making them an area of interest for researchers.
- Seasonal Changes of Human Circadian Rhythms in Antarctica is a study that was carried out in order to understand how circadian rhythms are affected by environmental cues. “Seasonal Changes” demonstrates differences in physiological characteristics resulting from subject’s received light intensity.
- Biological clock: Biological clocks may modulate drug addiction – Yuferov, Butelman, and Kreek present this article that mixes literary review and original content dealing with drug addiction and biological clocks. Drawing highly on McClung et al’s research on Clock/Clock mutants, “Biological Clock” shows that subjects with specific gene variants are predisposed to addictive substances.
Miscellaneous rhythms and other resources
The resources selected for this section proffer information concerning other biological rhythms. Additionally, this section gives access to research institutions specializing in Chronobiology. Focusing on sleep and other affected behaviors, the academic organizations below each have their own specialties and research emphasis. Other valuable general information is included, allowing for a greater understanding of the biological context of biological rhythms.
- Society for Research on Biological Rhythms is an organization dedicated to advancing research in all areas of biological rhythms. Of equal importance to this organization is the dissemination of significant results found in research.
- Dunlap and Loros Laboratories – An academic society that works to further research related to the connection between mechanisms responsible for biological clocks and the role of these clocks in regulating metabolism. The Dunlap and Loros Laboratories explores the diversity of evolution through understanding these biological processes.
- Carl Johnson Laboratory – Incorporating cellular, molecular and evolutionary biology, the Carl Johnson Laboratory works to understand biological clocks. Interested in the neuroscience of circadian systems, this laboratory works to understand the signal transduction pathways involved in mammalian clockwork.
- Clockworks Lab – Researching questions related to biological coordination, the Martha U. Gillette Clockworks Lab desires to explain how different circadian clocks interact. This research often revolves around the suprachiasmatic nucleus, and seeks to understand peptides that connect this nucleus to glial circadian clocks.
- Biological Clock – Circadian Rhythm – Surveying biological clocks at work in different species, “Biological Clock – Circadian Rhythm” examines multiple contexts. Human, animal, and plant biotimed processes are looked at.
- UCSD Center for Chronobiology – The CCB fosters innovative techniques and approaches for researching the mechanisms involved in biological rhythms across a broad spectrum of organisms. In order for this information to be valuable, the CCB works to establish highly socially relevant findings.
- Ultradian Rhythms Annotated Bibliography builds a context for research regarding ultradian rhythms. Investigating earlier studies done on the subject, this website can be a valuable tool for designing innovative research, or acting as a background of information.
- S-Phase and M-Phase Timing Are under Independent Circadian Control in the Dinoflagellate Lingulodinium – Cellular biological rhythms are discussed on a molecular level. According to this article, specific phases of mitosis are determined by circadian rhythms.
- Skeptic’s Dictionary – Offering a highly critical view of biorhythms, the Skeptic’s Dictionary argues against the proposed effects of biological rhythms. Although slightly informal, this resource may help you determine what may or may not be legitimate in terms of studying biotiming.
- AQA A-Level Psychology PYA4: Infradian, Circadian and Ultraradian Rhythms – “Infradian, Circadian and Ultraradian Rhythms” delves into different types of biological rhythms. Ample illustrations and examples inform the viewer of essential differences.