Wakefulness and Sleep Essay

Pages: 2 (854 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Junior  ·  Topic: Anatomy

¶ … evolution have enabled blind mole rats to synchronize their SCN activity to light, even though they cannot see well enough to make any use of the light?

The SCN is a way that mammals are able to synch light and visual images from the retina to the brain. However, most of the input to this path is not initiated from simple retinal receptors. This must mean that light and light intensity is not all that is being communicated, since there are a number of animals that are "blind" based on their environment and evolution. For instance, blind mole rats do not have eye muscles or a lens to focus and they have less than 1% of the number of optic nerves in other comparable species. It appears, though, that the reason blind animals can synchronize their SCN activity to light is because they need certain chemicals that are produced in their brains by the presence of light, even though they cannot see. These chemicals are necessary for the survival of the species; some even speculate that it protects the rats from cancer. Even if the rats do not receive direct light input, they can reset their circadian rhythms through changes in light intensity so they know the best time to be underground, to eat, avoid predation and survive. The ability to reset to an appropriate circadian rhythm is also helpful in protecting the species during seasonal changes (e.g. less light in winter, more in summer), and to trigger hormones for reproduction at the optimum time.

2. If you travel across several time zones to the east and want to use melatonin to help reset your circadian rhythm, at what time of day should you take it? What if you travel west?Download full Download Microsoft Word File
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Essay on Wakefulness and Sleep Assignment

Melatonin is hormone that is released by the pineal gland that influences the circadian and circandnural rhythms. Typically, the pineal gland secrets melatonin at night to make us feel tired. When we travel, we do not automatically reset our rhythms for a few days, until our body gets used to the new time zone and pattern of light and dark. It appears that melatonin secretion begins about 2-3 hours prior to sleep, thus people who want to use melatonin to reset their sleep/wake cycle should take a tablet about 2 hours before they wish to start their sleep cycle. The hormone resets the biological clock based on receptors in the SCN. If a person wants to fall asleep earlier, they should take a moderate dose of melatonin in the later afternoon. It does not… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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