April 11 is World Parkinson’s Day, dedicated to raising awareness and support for people who have the disease. Parkinson’s disease is a disorder of the central nervous system, with tremors being the most recognizable symptom. Over the years, researchers have found that dopamine acts as a messenger between Parkinson’s patients’ brain cells and enables them to complete everyday behaviors like moving, eating, and learning.
Dr. Leah Chase, associate professor of biology and chemistry, is one of those researchers conducting Parkinson’s disease investigations at the cellular level. In fact, looking into the brain’s biological and chemical flaws, especially as they pertain to Parkinson’s, has driven her neurological research agenda in Schaap Science Center for the past 15 years. She and her student research team made a first-time discovery about how dopaminergic brain cells naturally protect themselves against oxidative stress, a known problem in the cells of Parkinson’s sufferers. “Our research is the basic science needed in order for somebody, someday to fix the problem with a new drug,” Chase said.
March Madness — aka the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament — begins on March 17 with Selection Sunday and concludes April 8 with the Final Four. The women’s tournament coincides closely with those dates as well. Office bracket pools will begin and result in distracted co-workers as the “madness” encourages fans to root for expected winners while bemoaning busted brackets due to upsets and Cinderella stories. From a collegiate athletic viewpoint, “fortunes” rise and fall as teams either win or go home.
Daylight Saving Time (DST) is the practice of advancing clocks during summer (and spring and fall) months so that evening daylight lasts longer, while sacrificing normal sunrise times. In effect, DST causes a lost hour of sleep in the spring and an extra hour of sleep in the fall. DST disrupts our internal clock, contributing to productivity wanes at work, significant pedestrian and traffic accidents increases and serious health impacts.
Dr. Andrew Gall, assistant professor of psychology, is a behavioral neuroscientist who focuses his research on understanding the neural mechanisms and functions of sleep and circadian rhythms. He is able to address questions on how DST affects the mind and body’s ability to cope with lost sleep and disruption in the circadian rhythm.
“Brain regions that receive direct information about light, such as the suprachiasmatic nucleus, must re-entrain to the adjusted time of day following a time change,” Gall says. “It takes our bodies longer to adjust to the spring time change as compared to the fall time change, similar to when we travel east, due to the phase advance in our biological clock. One way to help your bodies adjust more quickly is to wake up about 15 minutes earlier each day starting several days before the time change, and go to bed earlier and earlier each night. Doing so will start to adjust your internal clock before the time changes in the early hours of Sunday morning.”