Pratibha Pansari
4 min readDec 2, 2023

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Circadian Medicine: The Quest

Circadian Medicine (Image Source: Google)
Circadian Medicine (Image Source : Google)

It is no longer a marvel of human ingenuity that the Circadian Clock can serve as a therapeutic target capable of healing various major disorders. Our Circadian rhythm is a roughly 24-hour cycle in the physiological process; of connecting ourselves to nature. It works in a cyclic order of rise and fall during the 24 hours.

All animals and plants have a built-in circadian rhythm, which is adjusted or entrained to the environment by external cues, known as Zeitgebers (a German word meaning “time-givers”), the most important of which is daylight. The brain’s internal circadian clock, which is centered in the hypothalamus region of the basal forebrain, uses these Zeitgebers to naturally synchronize or reset itself each day to within just a few minutes of the Earth’s 24-hour rotation cycle (the word “circadian” comes from the Latin words meaning “about a day”).

Our circadian clock is an internal biological clock that regulates various physiological processes, including the sleep-wake cycle, hormone secretion, and body temperature.

Circadian Rhythm (Image Source : Wikipedia)
Circadian Rhythm (Image Source: Google)

An imbalanced or disrupted circadian clock and disruptions in circadian rhythms have been linked to neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Individuals with these conditions often experience disturbances in sleep patterns, mood, and cognitive function. An individual response to circadian disruptions may vary, and the severity of consequences depends on factors such as the degree of imbalance, duration of disruption, and overall health.

Maintaining a regular sleep-wake cycle, exposure to natural light, and adopting healthy sleep hygiene practices can contribute to a balanced circadian rhythm and mitigate potential adverse effects.

In the contemporary era dominated by technology, our bond with nature has waned, impacting our circadian rhythms and giving rise to health challenges. This disconnection poses potential issues for individuals. Music, however, holds the unique ability to not only tap into but also elevate cognitive, social, emotional, and motor functions in a person’s life.

Circadian Clock and Music:

Music therapy has gained recognition for its positive impact on emotional well-being, cognitive function, and social interaction. It involves the use of musical elements such as rhythm, melody, and harmony to address the physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs of individuals. In the context of neurodegenerative disorders, music therapy has shown promise in alleviating symptoms and improving overall quality of life.

Integrating Circadian Principles into Music Therapy:

Circadian clock-based music therapy involves aligning therapeutic interventions with an individual’s circadian rhythm. This approach recognizes the fluctuating nature of cognitive and emotional states throughout the day. For instance, selecting specific types of music or engaging in musical activities during times when an individual is more alert and receptive can enhance the therapeutic impact.

Components of Circadian Clock-Based Music Therapy:

Timing of Sessions: Scheduling music therapy sessions in alignment with an individual’s circadian rhythm can optimize the effectiveness of the intervention. For example, sessions may be timed to coincide with periods of increased alertness or improved mood.

Selection of Musical Elements: Tailoring the musical elements used in therapy, such as tempo, pitch, and genre, to complement the circadian fluctuations in cognitive and emotional states. Energetic and upbeat music may be suitable during daytime sessions, while calming and soothing melodies may be chosen for evening sessions to promote relaxation.

Illustration for the effects of MT intervention in the context of Sleep and CR.
Illustration for the effects of MT intervention in the context of Sleep and CR. (Image Source: Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience)

Circadian Clock and Genomics:

The circadian clock and inflammation have a well-described bidirectional relationship in the peripheral immune system: the circadian clock regulates inflammatory responses, but inflammation also impacts oscillatory gene transcription controlled by the clock.

A researcher, Arastu Sharma states that the crossroads between mechanisms of Music Therapy to ameliorate sleep-related symptoms of Neurodegenerative patients remains largely unexplored, as well as the analysis of potential alterations in the pathogenesis of the neurodegenerative disease in response to Music Therapy through a circadian or sleep-based lens. This critical function of Amyloid β clearance through increased glymphatic flow may be enhanced due to the increase in slow-wave sleep from the music aid, particularly when the musical aids are utilized directly before sleep onset.

The implications of the use of Music Therapy as an intervention to ameliorate severe neurodegenerative disorders compound as subsequent literature is published. The lens through which music may aid afflicted individuals can be focused on the relationship between Circadian Rhythm and Neurodegenerative disorders, specifically diurnally fluctuating physiological functions such as sleep and movement. The potential of Music Therapy to affect the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease must be objectified and may provide insight into mechanisms that can be further utilized to develop standardized music-based circadian treatments for neuroprotection and neurodegenerative disorders.

“Every disease is a musical problem; every cure is a musical solution” ~Novalis.

Futuristic insight:

Integrating genomics to identify potential biomarkers based on disruptions in the circadian clock holds promise for advancing our understanding of molecular mechanisms. This approach involves analyzing genomic data to pinpoint genetic variations associated with circadian rhythm disturbances, aiming to identify potential biomarkers indicative of these disruptions. Such integration could offer insights into the genetic underpinnings of circadian-related health issues and pave the way for targeted interventions and personalized treatment strategies.

The music that creates a problem is the noise we are surrounded by. ~ Pratibha

PS: The unfortunate consequence is that I composed this article by disrupting my own circadian clock.

*Opinions expressed are solely my own and do not express the views or opinions of my employer or organizations associated.

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