Michael Hastings

Circadian clock circuits in the mammalian brain
Group Leader page

Our lives are built around daily (circadian) cycles of behaviour and metabolism, the rhythm of sleep and wakefulness being the most pervasive. Well ordered circadian rhythms and sleep are a pre-requisite for both physical and mental health, such that disturbances of them are associated with many forms of illness, both metabolic (e.g. obesity and diabetes) and psychiatric (e.g. depression and schizophrenia).

The principal co-ordinator of circadian rhythms is the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) of the hypothalamus: this is the dominant circadian clock of the brain, using a molecular genetic feedback loop that can define approx. 24h cycles indefinitely. But how does this cluster of 10,000 clock neurons send out timing signals to control the rest of the brain and body? This project will apply state-of-the-art neural reconstruction high-volume microscopy and virally based methods to track, reconstruct and then genetically manipulate circuits that convey SCN time signals to brain regions involved in circadian physiology and behaviour. It will exploit both in vivo (behavioural, physiological) and in vitro (organotypic brain slice techniques) approaches using genetically modified mice, including lines carrying constitutive and conditional, circadian and neurochemical genetic mutations, combined with bioluminescent and fluorescent imaging and optogenetic and chemogenetic manipulation.

The project will provide a sound training in systems and molecular neuroscience. The successful candidate will work within a multidisciplinary research group with a strong international reputation in circadian clock neurobiology, and will also enjoy productive interactions with other research groups in the Neurobiology Division and wider LMB.

Recent first-author papers from previous graduate students of Hastings group:

  • Edwards et al. PNAS (2016).
  • Smyllie et al. PNAS (2016)
  • Smyllie et al. Current Biology (2016).

References

Militi et al.  (2016).
PNAS

Parsons et al.  (2015)
Cell

Brancaccio et al.  (2013)
Neuron