Graduate Studies Faculty
Charles N. Allen, PhD
Neuroscience Graduate Program
Research Interests:circadian rhythm, suprachiasmatic nucleus, calcium, signal transduction, synaptic transmission » Click here for more about Dr. Allen's research » PubMed Listing
Preceptor RotationsAcademic Term Available Winter 2014 Yes Spring 2014 Yes Fall 2015 Yes Spring 2015 Yes Winter 2015 Yes
Faculty MentorshipDr. Allen might be available as a mentor for 2013-2014. Dr. Allen might be available as a mentor for 2014-2015.
A selective evolutionary advantage seems to be conferred on individuals whose physiological rhythms are synchronized to environmental conditions. Thus, the majority of organisms studied show twenty-four hour rhythms in physiological processes termed circadian rhythms. Disturbances in circadian rhythms are known to contribute to a variety of diseases and to impair mental and physical performance. The circadian system consists of three conceptual components, a timekeeping oscillator, input pathways providing environmental information, and output pathways sending timing information to peripheral clocks and organs. The timekeeping oscillator or clock resides, in mammals, in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) a bilateral structure located in the hypothalamus. This circadian clock is synchronized (entrained) to the environmental light-dark cycle via a direct axonal projection (retinohypothalamic tract, RHT) from a specialized subset of retinal ganglion cells. SCN neurons ouput timing information via projections to other hypothalamic nuclei and by releasing neurohumoral factors.
The long-term goal of our research is to understand the functional properties of SCN neurons and how the circadian clock regulates these properties. To reach this goal we are pursuing four lines of research:
- Cellular electrophysiology of the suprachiasmatic nucleus
- Regulation of retinal input to the SCN
- Role of intracellular Ca2+ as a signaling molecule in the circadian system
- Characterization of the retinal ganglion cells projecting to the SCN
- Ph.D., University of Texas Health Sciences Center, Dallas, 1981
- B.S., Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX 1976