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PUBLIC RELEASE DATE:
31-Jan-2014

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Contact: David Weston
d.weston@ucl.ac.uk
44-020-310-83844
University College London

Vibrations influence the circadian clock of a fruit fly

The internal circadian clock of a Drosophila (fruit fly) can be synchronised using vibrations, according to research published today in the journal Science. The results suggest that an animal's own movements can influence its clock.

The circadian clock, which underlies the daily rhythms characterising most of our bodily functions including the sleep cycle, is mainly set by diurnal changes in light and temperature.

Researchers at UCL and Queen Mary, University of London, have now shown that exposure to 12-hour cycles of vibration and silence are also sufficient to synchronise the fly's internal clock, and corresponding daily locomotor activity.

"In a nutshell, our research shows that, in flies, the biological clock which regulates most bodily functions can be set or entrained not only by light and temperature, but also by mechanical stimuli that excite sensory receptors in the body," says Dr Joerg Albert (UCL Ear Institute), a senior author of the study.

"Our research encourages further research into the genetic and cellular basis of how the circadian clock is set," continues Dr Albert. "In mammals and humans there has been sporadic, but as yet inconclusive evidence to show if, and how, movement such as scheduled physical exercise can reset the clock."

Professor Ralf Stanewsky (Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, UCL; previously Queen Mary, University of London) another lead author of the study added: "Our experiments offer a novel pathway for setting the circadian clock that may well be relevant for the treatment of clock related diseases, such as insomnia, depression, bipolar disorder.

"It also offers a novel way to set the circadian clock using movement as well as extrinsic entrainment such as ambient light and temperature fluctuations. It could point to the existence of an animal's internal 'own time' that might have to be negotiated with the external 'world time'."

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Notes to editors

To speak to a UCL Press Officer, contact David Weston on +44 (0) 203 108 3844 (out of hours 07917 271 364) or d.weston@ucl.ac.uk

About UCL (University College London)

Founded in 1826, UCL was the first English university established after Oxford and Cambridge, the first to admit students regardless of race, class, religion or gender and the first to provide systematic teaching of law, architecture and medicine. We are among the world's top universities, as reflected by our performance in a range of international rankings and tables. According to the Thomson Scientific Citation Index, UCL is the second most highly cited European university and the 15th most highly cited in the world. UCL has nearly 27,000 students from 150 countries and more than 9,000 employees, of whom one third are from outside the UK. The university is based in Bloomsbury in the heart of London, but also has two international campuses UCL Australia and UCL Qatar. Our annual income is more than 800 million. http://www.ucl.ac.uk | Follow us on Twitter @uclnews | Watch our YouTube channel YouTube.com/UCLTV



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