Biological Rhythms Research Laboratory

Rush’s Biological Rhythms Research Laboratory is an internationally recognized human circadian rhythms research laboratory. The laboratory was established in 1987 by Charmane Eastman, PhD, and is now directed by Helen Burgess, PhD. The goal of our laboratory is to understand human circadian rhythms across the lifespan, and in the context of clinical disease. We test practical methods to attenuate circadian misalignment at home and in the work place.

We invite you to learn more about our research.

Our work

The circadian timing system regulates physiology and behavior over the course of a day. Everyday situations, however, such as shift work, jet lag and even waking to an alarm clock each weekday morning, forces us to be awake and try to sleep at adverse circadian times. This “circadian misalignment” between physiology and behavior can lead to decrements in physical health (e.g., sleep disruption, gastrointestinal distress, weight gain), mental health (e.g., depression, impaired learning) and poor health behaviors (e.g., diet, caffeine, alcohol, nicotine).

Our work focuses on measuring sleep and circadian rhythms in different contexts and then testing various interventions to reduce circadian misalignment to reduce symptom burden and improve overall health outcomes. We have extensive experience in the use of prescribed sleep/dark patterns, light treatments and exogenous melatonin treatments to reduce circadian misalignment.

Technology

  • Measurement of the dim light melatonin onset (DLMO) — the most reliable circadian phase marker in humans — in the laboratory and at home with objective measures of compliance
  • Wrist actigraphy for estimating sleep timing, duration and efficiency
  • Light boxes and wearable light treatment devices
  • 24-hour ambient light measurement
  • Cognitive performance testing

Funding

  • NIH/NIAAA R01 AA023839: The Effect of Alcohol on Retinal Photic Signaling to the Human Circadian System. Principal investigators: Helen J. Burgess, PhD, and Dingcai Cao, PhD
  • NIH/NINR R21 NR016377: Morning Light Treatment at Home to Improve Glucose Metabolism in People at Increased Risk for Type 2 Diabetes. Principal investigators: Helen J. Burgess, PhD, and Kristen Knutson, PhD
  • NIH/NINR R01 NR007677: Racial Differences in Human Circadian Rhythms. Principal investigator: Charmane I. Eastman, PhD; co-investigator: Stephanie J. Crowley, PhD
  • NIH/NCCIH R34 AT008347: Bright Light Treatment at Home to Manage Chronic Pain In U.S. Veterans. Principal investigator: Helen J. Burgess, PhD
  • NIH/NIDDK R01 DK095207: Home Sleep and Circadian Phase: Mediators of Racial Disparity in Diabetes Risk. Principal investigator: Kristin Knutson; co-investigator: Helen J. Burgess, PhD
  • NIH/NIAAA K23 AA019966: Circadian Desynchrony in Alcohol-Induced Gut Leakiness. Principal investigator: Garth R. Swanson; co-mentor: Helen J. Burgess, PhD
  • NIH/NHLBI R01 HL105395: Adolescent Sleep Delay: Circadian Regulation and Phase Shifting with Light. Principal investigator: Stephanie J. Crowley, PhD; co-investigator: Charmane I. Eastman, PhD
  • NIH/NHLBI R01 HL112756: Teen School-Night Sleep Extension: An Intervention Targeting the Circadian System. Principal investigator: Stephanie J. Crowley, PhD; co-investigator: Charmane I. Eastman, PhD

Our team

Helen J. Burgess, PhD
Professor
Departments of Behavioral Sciences & Internal Medicine
Director, Biological Rhythms Research Laboratory
Director, Center for Clinical Chronobiology
Email: helen_burgess@rush.edu

Charmane I. Eastman, PhD
Professor
Department of Behavioral Sciences
Email: ceastman@rush.edu

Stephanie J. Crowley, PhD
Associate Professor
Department of Behavioral Sciences
Email: stephanie_crowley@rush.edu

Thomas Molina, MS
Laboratory Manager
Phone: (312) 563-4644
Email: thomas_molina@rush.edu

Lab Location

1645 W. Jackson Blvd.
Suite 425
Chicago, IL 60612
Email: sleepclocklab@rush.edu