Principal Investigator: Mr Alon Bar
Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, IsraelTags: 45289, biological-oscillator, hpa, imaging-data, pituitary, seasonality, thyroid
Many people suffer from winter blues, also called seasonal affective disorder. This debilitating disorder can lead in extreme cases to hospitalization and suicide. Winter blues is one aspect of the seasonal clock that human beings share with other animals, in which our behaviour and bodies attune to the season of the year. The location of this clock in the body is not known. We aim to discover where the seasonal clock is in human beings, so that we can propose new ways to treat winter blues. We used mathematical models to predict that the clock is based on the sizes of hormone glands, that make each other grow and shrink in a yearly cycle . To test this, we will use the UK biobank collection of brain images and abdomen from tens of thousands of people, that will allow us to see the volume of hormone glands in the brain, neck and abdomen area, and test whether indeed their sizes go up and down in a predictable yearly fashion. If successful, we will have learned where the seasonal clock in humans might be, and offer new ways to treat diseases of the clock such as winter blues using, for example, mild and safe hormonal therapy.
Project extension – March 2020
Mammals have a seasonal (circa-annual) clock which governs behaviour and physiological adaptations. This clocks runs for years even in animals kept in constant day-length and temperature conditions. The physiological location of the seasonal clock is unknown, and locating the clock can benefit research on seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Our lab has suggested that the clock is based on negative feedback between the growth control of endocrine glands. We aim to find which endocrine glands and brain regions show seasonal oscillations in volume. For this purpose we aim to measure the sizes of the pituitary and thyroid gland as well as relevant brain regions from UK Biobank MRI images taken in different months of the year. This research will elucidate the likely physiological location of the clock, providing therapeutic targets for intervention for SAD, and better understanding of the seasonal components of other mood disorders
We will also study the effect of aging on the seasonal clock. For this purpose we will compute seasonality and relate it to the incidence of all diseases in the database as a function of age. We will test the incidence curves against theoretical models of a main driver of aging: the stochastic accumulation of senescent cells.
Last updated Mar 19, 2020