Quebec(Canada), Feb 23 : The human body is regulated by a twenty four hour cycle known as the circadian clock.
However, a new research suggests that the body actually runs on a much shorter cycle. In fact, the human body is regulated by a four hourly cycle called the ultradian rhythm. This is most evident in babies before they can sleep through the night. This rhythm prompts us to eat three meals per day.

This four hourly rhythm of the body is regulated by a chemical called dopamine. If the production of the dopamine is disturbed, this disrupts the ultradian rhythm of the body. This in turn may lead to mental illnesses.

Previously, it was thought the disruption of the circadian rhythm leads to mental disorders.
However, the new study suggests that such illnesses are actually rooted in the disruption of the ultradian rhythm. The oscillator of the ultradian rhythm is controlled by dopamine. The researchers say that in cases of bipolar disorder, the dopamine oscillator is actually running on a 48 hour cycle leading to clear patterns of manic and depressive behavior. It makes sleep impossible and triggers the mania.
The disruption of the dopamine oscillator is also likely to be associated with the schizophrenic episodes.

So, the researchers suggest that following a routine in daily life like eating, sleeping and other activities help to maintain the ultradian rhythm. In patients with mental disorder, this maintenance of routine can help in leading a better life and reduce extreme episodes. This opens up new avenues of treatment of bipolar disorder and other mental diseases.

This groundbreaking study was conducted by Kai-Florian Storch, PhD, of the Douglas Mental Health University Institute and McGill University. The results were published in eLife.

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