This fall, Nobel Prizes were awarded for advances made in physics, chemistry, medicine, and economic sciences (among others). News outlets everywhere, as they always do, touted the recipients of these venerated awards, and people around the world found themselves fascinated by the intersection of science with their day-to-day experiences.
The science nerds here at PLASTARC are certainly no exception—our organization was founded on the belief that science has everything to do with architecture and how people experience it. Feeling inspired by Nobel nominees past, present, and future this fall, we present three concepts from the world of neuroscience and what they can teach us about how we interact with—and might improve—the spaces and places we visit every day.
Scientists have been studying the circadian rhythm of living organisms for decades, but this year’s Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash, and Michael W. Young for discovering the molecular mechanisms that control it. The team dug deeply into the processes behind our circadian rhythm, and isolated a gene that controls the regular production and degradation of a protein that is integral to its “clockwork.” On a 24-hour cycle, the brains of humans (and many other organisms) operate an inner clock that influences our physiology. It informs when we release sleep hormones, when we are most active and able to focus, our alertness, and our body temperature, among other things. The researchers also discovered that circadian rhythm generally operates on the same schedule independent of external conditions—so, as the Prize’s press release puts it, “chronic misalignment between our lifestyle and the rhythm dictated by our inner timekeeper is associated with increased risk for various diseases.”
In the modern workplace, we are often shielded from the daylight that helps us align with our circadian rhythm—though thankfully that is starting to change, thanks in part to more publicized research.