Dragana Rogulja: How Artificial Light Affects Our Health (Full Transcript)

How can your same physical brain exist in two fundamentally different states?

So now we’re engaged, for instance, here I’m speaking to you, I’m engaged, I’m aware of you, of my surroundings, I’m aware of my internal state; but tonight when I go to sleep, I will be in a completely different state.

And another thing that we’re asking which is relevant to what I talked about, to light, is how light coming through the eye is regulating sleep and wake patterns?

A PhD student in my lab, Bryan Song, is asking exactly this: What Bryan can do is, he can — you can see that flies have these big eyes that take up a large part of their head.

What Bryan can do is he can actually trick the cells in the eye into thinking they’re seeing light, even when they’re not. And this results in animals having trouble falling asleep, so it takes them about an hour and a half longer to fall asleep.

You can imagine that now we can use this as a model organism to understand what it is that happens in the brain when it’s getting light information and how this is interfacing with sleep and wake centers in the brain.

And so one final thing I want to tell you is well, first I want you to think again for a moment about our evolutionary history. We evolved without alarm clocks, without any external source of information of the time of day, and we’ve developed this way that keeps us in sync with our environment.

But what we’re exposing ourselves to every day now is very much interfering with that natural system, and I think it’s really something to think about.

So when people tell you that too much light exposure at night is not good, unfortunately, they are actually right.

And the last thing I want to say is please support basic science, because this is important for all of us, and this is the way forward, I think.

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