In our research, we cover topics in Medical Psychology, including placebo and sleep , but our department-wide focus is Chronobiology or the daily biological clock. The circadian timing system ensures that almost our entire behavioural repertoire – from mood to perception and performance – changes over the course of the day. Long ago, Andre Gide has expressed this perfectly: “if I were not there to make them acquainted, my morning’s self would not recognize my evening’s. Nothing could be more different from me than myself”. We aim to describe how the clock network behaves, from molecule to organism, and even society.
We start at the basic level: every cell in our bodies is a clock, with processes from genes to metabolism following a daily oscillation. We are interested in the molecular mechanisms of the circadian clock, which include a transcription factors as well as post-transcriptional mechanisms. We want to know how complex and robust intracellular and intercellular networks of molecular oscillators synchronise to yield a characteristic phase or time of day. We work with ‘emerging’ model genetic systems to gain novel insights on clock mechanisms.
The timing of behavior in humans is our ultimate interest and it is the clock in combination with the cyclic environment that determines this. The circadian clock is a highly complex genetic trait, yielding a distribution of chronotypes in the normal population. We work from highly controlled situations (in our Sleep Lab) to life in the real world (e.g. Shift work) to understand how modern society can adapt the social clock to the biological one (social jetlag ).