Lorentz Center - Human Circadian Rhythms: Developing a Multi-Oscillator Framework from 6 Jul 2015 through 10 Jul 2015
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    Human Circadian Rhythms: Developing a Multi-Oscillator Framework
    from 6 Jul 2015 through 10 Jul 2015


Human Circadian Rhythms: Developing a Multi-Oscillator Framework

6 – 10 July 2015

Human function is a result of a carefully orchestrated, hierarchical, multi-oscillator system that interacts with environmental cues.  Traditionally, main stream human circadian rhythm research has focussed on a reductionist approach, seeking to identify and model ‘the’ circadian clock.  However, it is increasingly recognised that circadian rhythmicity is a result of many interacting clocks resulting in daily (circadian) rhythms in transcription and translation, physiological and behavioural cycles including, core body temperature, melatonin secretion, blood pressure the sleep/wake cycle and cycles of feeding and fasting.

The aim of this workshop was to bring experimentalists and modellers together from different communities, all interested in modelling human circadian rhythms but from different perspectives. The motivation was to consolidate existing knowledge and start to consider the architecture of the full, hierarchical, multi-oscillator system.

The workshop was attended by 50 participants from the US, Brazil, Japan and Europe. The first day set the scene with some general talks and discussion on the concept of considering human circadian organisation as a multi-oscillator system.  This was followed on subsequent days by considering what is known already at each different level, from the transcription-translation feedback loops that generate rhythms at the cellular level, to oscillations in the endocrine system, neuronal oscillators, oscillations of the periphery, sleep-wake cycles, the role of light as a zeitgeber, and circadian rhythmicity in the real world.  The final session considered the consequences of circadian disruption for health.  Each session included talks from biologist(s), mathematician(s) and a discussion.  This format gave a coherent structure within which the diverse interests and expertise of the participants could be explored.

The week provided a rare opportunity for participants to spend time with people outside their normal research circles and reflect on the current status of the field from new perspectives. There were many inspirational talks; many people shared un-published data, enabling an open and frank discussion to take place on current knowledge and where further research is needed in order to develop a deep understanding of real world behaviour of the human circadian system.

In order to further foster interaction between mathematicians and biologists, we assigned office space to make sure that in every office there was at least one biologist and one mathematician with overlapping interests.

Overall, the workshop has initiated a dialogue between biologists and mathematicians on the complexity of human circadian architecture.  At this stage, it is hard to evaluate the legacy of such a meeting, but the meeting has sparked off new cross-disciplinary discussions and we hope this dialogue will develop and deepen over the next decade. There was considerable enthusiasm for a follow-on meeting in 2-3 years time.   


The Lorentz Center forms the ideal setting for a workshop of this nature, and we are very appreciative of the support offered by the Lorentz Center staff, enabling the organizers to focus on the science.  We also thank the Company of Biologists http://www.biologists.com , the Surrey Sleep Research Centre, the Universiteit Leiden, STW, the Foundation for Fundamental Research on Matter (FOM)  and the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) for financial assistance.

Derk-Jan Dijk (University of Surrey)

Daniel Forger (University of Michigan)

Anne Skeldon (University of Surrey)