Racial Differences of the Endogenouos Timing System

Race is a very salient subject in science this week. Following yesterday’s post, I found an article about racial differences in the operation of the endogenous timing system (i.e. located within the SCN).

The time of day at which we awake and sleep is influenced by environmental stimuli (i.e. light) and internal cues. In the presence of constant environmental stimuli such as in extreme latitudes where there is constant darkness in the winter (that predisposes people to depression and substance abuse)  and constant light in the summer (that predisposes people to insomnia and subsequent depression and substance abuse) , the internal cues can still determine, through the innerworkings within the SCN, the time of day at which we awake and sleep, and provided that there is no alarm clock and/or additional stress. Charmanne Eastmann and her collegues at Rush Medical School have found a racial difference in the the time at which a person awakes and sleeps;  African Americans tend to awake sooner relative to Caucasians. Of course, this natural tendency to awake earlier is critically important for employers, school administrators,  and businesses to consider. But that is a completely different topic…

The graduate student from Mary’s lab, now known as Dr. Stephanie Crowley, is working with Charmanne Eastmann soon. Perhaps she can fill me in on more details (physiological and neurobiological reasons) about this phenomenon.

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