Anyone suffering from jet lag after traveling across time zones can attest to the disruptions in the body's biological clock. Researchers led by neuroscientist H. Elliott Albers of Georgia State University have identified three substances in the brain that set this clock and regulate the sleep-wake cycle.
The scientists found that peak production of two of these so-called neurotransmitters occurs at night; the third is at its highest level during the day. The researchers also found that injecting the chemicals into a rat's brain at the time it normally woke up altered its biological clock, causing the animal to delay its daily exercise -- running on a wheel in its cage -- by an hour and a half.
For those in the human rat race, the findings may eventually lead to new drug treatments. That could mean help for sleep disorders, jet lag -- even manic depression and some kinds of memory loss. A faulty biological clock is implicated in all these problems, Albers notes.