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Clinical Relevance of Circadian Rhythms
It is increasingly clear that a robust sleep/wake cycle is a critical component of good health. Work from our field has documented that disrupting the circadian system leads to a set of symptoms that impact cognition, cardiovascular function, metabolism and the immune system. In addition, patients with a wide range of nervous system disorders exhibit disrupted sleep/wake cycles with deficits in the timing of arousal states that could be the result of an underlying circadian dysfunction. These observations raise the possibility that circadian dysfunction may play an important role in disease pathology and that stabilizing the circadian system in the patients may actually improve this pathology. The goal of this meeting was to discuss these topics.
The workshop was designed to promote discussions, rather than to listen to overview talks. All participants were asked to present short lectures (25 min, including discussion) on a particular topic. We asked them to focus on three questions: (1) Does the disease result in deterioration of circadian rhythms? (2) Does the deterioration of circadian rhythms result in aggravation of the disease? (3) Is there evidence that improvement of rhythms can improve the patientís quality of life and perhaps even influence the pathology of the disease?
Many of the speakers presented empirical evidence indicating the causal role of rhythm deterioration in the ontogeny of disease. In the plenary discussions we discussed how to improve interaction between the clinicians and the basic scientists in this area. We also considered how basic information about circadian rhythms can be integrated into the medical school curriculum. Finally, we decided to prepare a document with a resume of our results and discussions. This manuscript should be written in the first place for clinicians, and should be general and accessible for the non-expert. The manuscript will be submitted early spring 2014.
The BBC was informed on our meeting and received input on the program. They have contacted Joke Meijer and several of the speakers (predominantly the British speakers) and are preparing a program on this topic.
The evaluation of the workshop by the participants was extraordinary. Several people commented that this was the most inspiring and pleasant meetings they had had in many years. The unique environment and informal atmosphere prompted the speakers to spontaneously present new and unpublished data, while they were not particularly asked to do so. Several of the speakers came up with new thoughts and presented these to evoke further discussion.†