The Science of Circadian Rhythms

Picture a plant trying to perform photosynthesis at night: Without light, it’s a short drama. “Plants are dealing with life and death,” said Sally Yoo, assistant professor in the Biochemistry and Cell Biology Graduate Program at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth), somberly. “If they don’t follow circadian rhythms, they’ll die.” For humans, the prognosis would be slightly less bleak. “Even if you deleted the clock gene [an important gene regulating circadian rhythms], you wouldn’t die immediately,” Yoo said. “But you will suffer.” Likely problems? Constant psychological confusion and heightened risk for chronic disease, among other things. Life’s tough when everything’s out of sync.

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Matthew Ankeny