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Marquette Lab Studies Connection Between Our Internal Clocks and Mental Health

Courtesy of Jennifer Evans

There’s a reason why we’re programmed to go to sleep and wake up at a certain time, and there’s a reason we feel discombobulated when that clock is disrupted.

But what scientists are beginning to unravel is the mystery of how disruptions of that body clock can have wide-ranging impacts on our physical and mental health. 

Marquette University biomedical sciences professor Jennifer Evans is one of those scientists and has just received a $1.7 million dollar grant from the National Institutes of Health to study those questions. 

"The key question that my lab focuses on is understanding how the cells of this master clock communicate with one another," Evans says.

According to Evans, our internal clock is made of 20,000 cells and each cell functions as an individual clock. However, if the cells don't communicate with one another, there is no general consensus of what time it is so the rest of the body is at a sense of loss.

In addition to studying circadian clocks and the daily rhythms they establish, Evans is looking into the close connection of a properly functioning clock and its effects on mental health. 

"As a part of this team, one of my main goals is to advance our understanding of the clock itself, and the problems that arise when its function is compromised - like during jetlag...and during the winters of Wisconsin," says Evans.