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Biomedical sciences professor receives $1.7 million grant

The+university+announced+an+increase+of+%241%2C330+for+tuition+during+the+2017-2018+academic+school+year+Jan.+23.+
The university announced an increase of $1,330 for tuition during the 2017-2018 academic school year Jan. 23.

The university announced an increase of $1,330 for tuition during the 2017-2018 academic school year Jan. 23.

Photo by Wire Stock Photo

Photo by Wire Stock Photo

The university announced an increase of $1,330 for tuition during the 2017-2018 academic school year Jan. 23.

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The National Institutes of Health awarded a $1.7 million research grant to Jennifer Evans, a professor in the College of Health Sciences, according to a university news brief.

The grant will fund research on the ways biological rhythms affect human health. That information will aid understanding of neuropsychiatric disorders like depression and schizophrenia.

“Nearly every biological process in our body fluctuates over the course of the day,” Evans said in the news brief. “All these rhythms are controlled by a master clock located in a very small region of the brain.”

Evans said the “master clock” is a network of around 20,000 neurons that become coordinated to ensure that biological processes occur at specific times of the day. Disrupting that network is linked to diseases including depression, obesity and cancer.

These health problems are prevalent in the shift workers that make up 15 percent of the American workforce but Evans said this issue has wider relevance. Biological clock dysfunction can also occur during aging, jetlag and nighttime light exposure due to increased computer and smart phone usage.

“The link is there, but we need to better understand how this coordination of behavior adjusts in a changing environment,” Evans said in the brief. “To do this, it is imperative that we identify the mechanisms and molecules through which these neurons communicate.”

William Cullinan, dean of the College of Health Sciences and director of the Integrative Neuroscience Research Center, said Evans’ research could be critical to understanding the link between the disruption of circadian rhythm and neurobiological diseases.

“There is a fundamental gap in our understanding how neurons communicate to synchronize biological activity that her studies will directly address,” Cullinan said in the brief.

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