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Researchers identify neurons that control brain’s body clock

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Posted August 4, 2017

Neurons in the brain that produce the pleasure-signaling neurotransmitter dopamine also directly control the brain’s circadian center, or “body clock” – the area that regulates eating cycles, metabolism and waking/resting cycles – a key link that possibly affects the body’s ability to adapt to jet lag and rotating shift work, a new University of Virginia study has demonstrated.

The finding is reported in today’s online edition of the journal Current Biology.

“This discovery, which identifies a direct dopamine neuron connection to the circadian center, is possibly the first step toward the development of unique drugs, targeting specific neurons, to combat the unpleasant symptoms of jet-lag and shiftwork, as well as several dangerous pathologies,” said Ali Deniz Güler, a UVA professor of biology and neuroscience who oversaw the study in his lab.

Source: University of Arizona

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