University of Oxford professor Russell Foster describes studying the response of mice with visual disabilities to a light/dark cycle led to the discovery of a previously unknown receptor of light in the eye: Melanopsin, or OPN4 genes, found on chromosome ten. Future research on these light sensitive areas could open up new opportunities to help people with certain kinds of visual impairments and unlock the connection between circadian rhythm and light.
What is the Circadian Rhythm?
Your body’s circadian rhythm is like an internal clock that is running in the brain, and through every 24 hour cycle switches between sleepiness and alertness at regular intervals. It has also been called the “body clock” or “sleep/wake cycle”
How does the Circadian Rhythm work?
There is a part of your brain called the hypothalamus that controls your internal circadian rhythm. Part of your brain contains the pineal gland, which produces melatonin. Melatonin sends the sleepy time signals to your brain when it is time to fall asleep. The day/light cycle helps send signals to regulate the production of melatonin, and it’s counterpart serotonin.