Bees, Shift Work, Per Genes, and A Blog Around The Clock

This week, the writer of the infamous “A Blog Around The Clock” provided excellent commentary on a recent publication describing shift work in social insect colonies. Though current research has proposed that the innerworkings of the circadian clock may be comparable across vertebrates and invertebrates, such as that of the mouse and Drosophila, respectively, this article supports otherwise, at least in social insect colonies. Whether it is survival through social hierarchy that is necessitating for the unique and resilient properties of the bee circadian clock is to be determined, but it is certain that this resiliency is lacking in the mammalian circadian system.

Interestingly enough, our lab is currently investigating the effects of shift work and subsequent sleep deprivation on alcohol consumption and the associated disruptions of circadian entrainment;this project was created in lieu of Obama’s “Challenge Grants” for the sciences. Through our investigations, we will simulate a work schedule of “Joe the Plumber,” “Joe the Doctor,” “Joeline the Nurse,” or any other individual whose late night shift work at an unfavorable circadian time of waking could have severe consequences on cognition, attention, and performance in mice. In addition, we will be measuring alcohol consumption because we believe that demanding work, which our mice will also be subjected to, may also increase alcohol consumption and potentially result in alcohol addiction.

Moreover, even if bees possess a unique and resilient circadian clock unlike mammals, would they still exhibits similar disruptions of circadian entrainment during co-introduction of shift work and subsequent ethanol exposure? My advisor and myself not only discussed why this issue warrants further investigation, but we have also reached the same conclusion; ” then get em’ drunk.”

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