A professor of mathematics at the University of Michigan will lead an international project of one million dollars that will examine the connection between bipolar disorder and abnormalities in the circadian cycle, i.e., the daily rhythm in the internal clock of mammals.
In humans, this timer with the size of a grain of rice contains 20,000 neurons and is located just behind the eyes. It is called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) in the hypothalamus of the brain and is responsible for synchronizing our body with 24-hour day on the planet.
Scientists believe that this watch is out of sync in patients with bipolar disorder, or manic depressive condition. Some of the genes involved in disease are the same that regulate the biological clock. It is known that the usual treatment with lithium compound modifies the period of that clock, and when manic depressive patients are forced to remain in a program of 24 hours many experience a relief of the episode, said lead researcher Daniel Forger, associate professor in the Department of Mathematics at the UM.
The way the brain clock controls the state of mind remains a mystery. This new project aims to change that by using complex mathematical models and experiments with mice. “Continuously observe the state of the animal’s internal clock. When we see a variant will use mathematics to understand their role and how to test controls in the mood,” said Forger.
The researchers examined the brains of mice and normal mice depressed and looking for abnormal electrical activity. Scientists seek to determine which regions of the clock that correspond to different states of mind in animals. “We will learn much about the circadian rhythm, which also could play a role in Alzheimer’s disease, cancer and heart attacks than depression itself,” Forger said.
There are also participating in this project by Toru Takumi, a professor at the Laboratory of Integrative Biosciences, University of Japan at Hiroshima and Hugh Piggins science professor at the University of Manchester (England). The project is funded by a grant from Programme International Competitive Frontier for Human Sciences, which supports basic research in life sciences funded by 13 countries and the European Union.