Monday, November 05, 2007

A Rat's Chance

Rick Weiss recently had an interesting piece in the Washington Post on how our sleep patterns are affected by artificial light. He then mentions the brain's internal clock, known as the SCN (suprachiasmatic nucleus): "a tangle of neurons in the hypothalamus connected directly to the eyes.

"The SCN controls the ebb and flow of hormones that influence sleepiness, alertness and hunger. Prime among them is melatonin, levels of which rise each evening, easing the onset of sleep, and then fall before dawn in advance of awakening.

"Rats whose SCNs are surgically removed become unhinged from time, sleeping at odd intervals. And when one animal's SCN is transplanted into another's brain, the recipient takes on the donor's wake-sleep schedule."

Umm, could you repeat that last part? And can we assume that if mad scientists have done that kind of sick experiment, they probably have already done brain transplants involving dead criminals and patients in vegetative states? Or the hands of killers? And what about healthy patients who are intentionally put into comas? And Devlin MacGregor, maker of ProVasic?

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