Undergraduate Research & Scholarships

Gwyneth Hutchinson Humanities and Social Science

Circadian Disruption of Labor

Circadian rhythms are daily rhythms generated by all mammalian tissues that are critical to numerous physiological functions. These rhythms have far-reaching influence on the brain and periphery; therefore, circadian regulation of hormones is essential for normal functioning, and disruptions to circadian timing (e.g. irregular sleep patterns, nighttime light exposure, etc.) have detrimental health consequences. Labor and birth are reproductive events that exhibit a circadian rhythm by which human labor and birth tend to cluster during nighttime. Melatonin is a hormone secreted at night that is inhibited by light. We theorize that melatonin is involved in the labor process and that light exposure can impair labor progress. However, rhythm disruptions impact on labor progression and birth has never been studied. To answer this question, I will characterize the relationship between circadian disruption and labor intensity, duration, and the intervals between the birth of each pup. We will subject pregnant rats to bright light continuously in the days leading up to parturition (birth) and assess the impacts on the labor process. If circadian disruption indeed impairs labor as we suspect, it is then worthwhile to investigate neuroendocrine circuits implicated at the intersection of parturition and circadian timing.

Message To Sponsor

I would like to thank the Wishek Fund for creating this opportunity for me in the SURF Program. This experience was life-changing. I spent the entire summer neck-deep in my neuroendocrine research, and I came out of this program as a stronger, more confident scientist. I am more determined now than ever before to continue on to my neuroscience PhD. I grew as a scholar and as a scientist this summer, and I found a great deal of joy in the process of that growth. I feel that I now truly identify as a real, capable researcher rather than someone who simply participates in research. SURF has made all the difference in solidifying my passions and aspirations, and I am deeply grateful for the experience your donation provided. Thank you so much!
Profile image of Gwyneth Hutchinson
Major: Psychology
Mentor: Lance Kriegsfeld
Sponsor: Wishek Fund
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