Elke’s CSAW seminar

12 02 2014


In the last week of January, Elke gave the first CSAW seminar for 2014. She’s a good speaker (very clear, and her sense of humour shines though), and the topic was fascinating: how activity and sleep/ wake rhythms are controlled – something I knew nothing about. Elke presented data showing that inter-species competition regulates some of the rhythms of small Mongolian rodents, both in the lab and in the desert itself, but almost more interesting to me was her background material. For example, did you know that ‘cathemeral’ means ‘active when it’s important to be active’? That pulses of light reset one’s clock but pulses of dark do not? That emailing late at night, on a screen bright with blue light, can therefore screw you up (hmmm… could that explain my chronic insomnia)? And that the same may well happen to lab rodents on a reversed schedule, every time you enter or leave the door to a lit corridor, or even if you use an iPad in their room? That not all red filters truly filter out everything but red (useful when we naively buy “red lightbulbs” for our mouse rooms)? And last but not least, that insomnia can kill (cancer and cardiac disease seeming to be the culprits… OK I’m getting even more paranoid now! But worrying can kill too, so I will stop it), as can being in perpetual darkness so that all your different rhythms dissociate? Amazing stuff.

She and I were going to investigate how enrichment affects sleep in mice, but she’s become more interested in writing a methodological review for welfare researchers (having seen some blunders in the few relevent papers we came across), and we might also assess the light insulating properties of the different nests mice build when you provide them with good versus poor nesting materials. Will update as we make progress…