Keiran's World World by word by word

The body contains its own timekeepers

Camping at San Josef's Bay, Vancouver Island. Photo © Madeleine Holland, creative commons flickr

We lose an hour of sleep this weekend, and over the next couple of weeks will be adjusting to that shift to Daylight Saving Time. This coming week, we’ll be waking up before sunrise again and eating later in the evening, because we’re just not hungry for supper at six o’clock. Everything will be just a little bit off, as our internal body clocks try to catch up with the regimented requirements of modern life.

But no matter. We’ll have more daylight in the evening, when we’re awake to appreciate it. This will help us prepare to fine-tune our inner body clocks—every one of them—to longer, brighter days.

It was once thought that the brain controlled our body clocks. That any human-caused shift backwards or forwards on the sundial meant we had to reset that part of the brain that woke us automatically at 6:30 every morning, or at 2:30 a.m. if we’d jetted over to Hawai’i for the February break.

Research over the last decade suggests that the brain is indeed involved, but more as master networking device than a solitary systems timekeeper. It would seem many organs within our bodies measure the passage of time according to their own internal cellular timepieces, quite independent of what HQ in the noggin or the clock on the wall dictates. Cells within each of these organs track time throughout the day, and accordingly produce and release different amounts of enzymes and molecules at different times of day….

Read the rest of the editorial at the Victoria Times Colonist.

 

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