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From Bench to Bedtime - Entraining Policy to Science

How do our everyday activities impact circadian rhythms? How we can make policies to keep our circadian health intact without sacrificing all the amenities of modern life?

Circadian rhythms have a profound impact on our health and well being. Beyond regulating our sleep, they influence cognitive alertness, gastric motility, and cardiovascular health and many other body processes. Yet, our industrialized, 24/7 world often brings us out of sync with these rhythms leading to pervasive but addressable health consequences. Join us to learn the molecular and circuit mechanisms that sync our circadian rhythms to environmental cues like light and food, how our everyday activities and societal issues impact these rhythms, and how we can make policies to keep our circadian health intact without sacrificing all the amenities of modern life. This course is offered through the Morehouse and Harvard Partnership in Neuroscience Growth (MAHPING) Pedagogy Fellows Program.

Instructors: Mikaili Abdullah (MSM), Brittany Bush (MSM), Ben Finander (HMS), Lucy Lai (HMS), Jackie Lin (MSM), Lauren Miner (HMS), and Rachel Swope (HMS). To learn more about your instructors, visit the Staff page!


Harvard Medical School (all sessions from 2-4pm in TMEC L-007)

Complete our Pre-Test Survey!
Nov 2
DAY 1 Why do circadian rhythms matter?
Instructors Ben Finander, Lauren Miner, Jackie Lin, Rachel Swope
In our first session, we will establish foundational knowledge, describing the biological mechanisms by which circadian rhythms are entrained by environmental cues and synchronized throughout the body.
After Day 1, students will understand:
  • The autoinhibitory transcriptional network that creates circadian rhythms
  • The concept of entrainment, i.e. that external cues can be used to adjust intrinsically generated rhythms
  • How light entrains the clock
  • How peripheral clocks differ from the central circadian clock
  • That almost ALL tissues in the body (a) have circadian rhythms, and (b) rely on these rhythms to function

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Nov 3
DAY 2 How can we apply circadian biology to inform decisions related to shift work?
Instructors Lucy Lai, Ben Finander, Mikaili Abdullah
In our second session, we will apply our knowledge of circadian biology to the health risk posed by shift work. Operating outside of a natural circadian rhythm is inherently unhealthy, but we can leverage what we know about circadian biology to protect both long-term health outcomes and performance of shift workers.
After Day 2, students will understand:
  • The history and current state of shift work in the US
  • The broad implications of non-standard work schedules
  • How timing of meals can impact entrainment of peripheral clocks in the gut and outcomes on circadian disruption

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Nov 4
DAY 3 How can we apply circadian biology to broader policy decisions like Daylight Savings Time?
Instructors Lucy Lai, Brittany Bush, Mikaili Abdullah

In our third session, we will discuss how circadian biology informs general policy decisions using the examples of Daylight Savings Time and school start times. We will focus on health outcomes resulting from policy decisions.

After Day 3, students will understand:

  • The historical origins and current implementation of Daylight Savings Time in the US
  • How shifting waking hours due to DST affects the relative risks of diseases
  • How behavioral techniques can aid in adapting to circadian disruption
  • How future policies should be informed by circadian biology

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Complete our Post-Test Survey!