“Clocks, Sleep, and the Ageing Brain” receives Velux Grant

The groups of Prof. Steven Brown (UZH), Prof. Nicolas Cermakian (McGill University) and Prof. Russell Foster (Oxford University) have been awarded a 400’000 SFr grant by the Velux Foundation for their joint research project “Clocks, Sleep, and the Ageing Brain”. It is the first large project established by the McGill-Oxford-ZNZ Partnership in the Neurosciences 2014-2016.

Our sleep-wake cycle is weakened as we grow older and this has a negative impact on our well-being. In humans with age-related pathologies, ranging from cataracts to cancer, the effects of a disruption of the circadian clock can even be devastating. In their three-year-research project, the groups of Brown, Cermakian and Foster will investigate the consequences of the disruption of normal day-night rhythms during aging. What are the changes in the internal clock with age and which clues do they hold to both normal and pathological brain ageing?

Jet lagged mice
To answer these questions, the researchers will compare aging in mice kept in an optimal day-night rhythm with mice that are not allowed to live according to their own circadian rhythm. The latter mice are kept in circumstances that mimic light pollution or social jet lag – the chronic clash between what the body needs and what the environment dictates. Starting from these mouse models, the three laboratories will analyze how chronic changing of the normal sleep-wake rhythm affects age-related changes to the eyes, to the circadian clock and, more generally, to brain function.
“Our recent research has focused on the body’s mechanisms to adapt to daylight changes. We’ve known for a long time, however, that this adaptation is imperfect and incomplete. With the support of the Velux Foundation, we can finally examine if this has long-term negative consequences for health,” Prof. Brown explains.

About the Velux Foundation
Velux Foundation is a charitable foundation that supports research about daylight, healthy aging and ophthalmology. The foundation, located in Zurich, is active world wide and supports innovative projects which generate lasting progress for the benefit of mankind. More

Research groups
Prof. Steven Brown, Institute of Pharmacology and Toxicology, University of Zurich. More
Prof. Nicolas Cermakian, Douglas Mental Health University Institute, McGill University. More
Prof. Russell Foster, Department of Ophthalmology, Oxford University. More