Welcome to the MSU Rhythms Group Home Page

We are a highly collaborative group of researchers at Michigan State University focused on issues related to biological rhythms, their mechanisms, their evolution and their role in mental and emotional health. One general set of questions we ask is how have the mechanisms that shape the daily patterning of activity changed as day-active mammals evolved from their night-active ancestors, and vice versa. Related to this are questions of how adaptations that support activity during a hot/bright day have diverged from those supporting activity during a relatively cold/dark night. Here, we are specifically examining changes in the size and structure of sensory regions of the brain. A second focus of the MSU Rhythms Group is on identification of neural mechanisms responsible for the negative effects that some daily patterns of exposure to light can have on learning, memory and mental health. For example, a diurnal rodent, the unstriped Nile grass rat, is being used to examine how the brightness of light during the day may influence depression-like behavior, and brain mechanisms related to emotion. Much of this work involves collaborations among people in the labs of the Rhythms Research Group at MSU, which includes Dr. Laura Smale, Dr. Lily Yan and Dr. Tony Nunez (our students sometimes say that they are members of the “SYN Lab”). People from other labs within and beyond MSU are also key collaborators. Students in the SYN labs have opportunities to obtain their PhDs through any of three graduate programs: Integrative Biology (IBIO) (which also admits students into a Masters’ program), the Psychology Department and the Neuroscience Program.