The University of Massachusetts Amherst

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Eric L. Bittman


Chronobiology, Neuroendocrinology

Current Research
My research concerns biological rhythms and their role in physiological coordination. Neurological and physiological processes must be coordinated in time in order for normal function to be achieved, and health is compromised when underlying oscillators are misaligned. Not only does jet lag indicate how health and performance can deteriorate, but neurogenesis and learning are compromised while addictive processes and neurodegenerative changes are aggravated when circadian oscillators are compromised. My work investigates the operation of transcriptional-translational feedback loops that underlie circadian rhythms in both the central hypothalamic pacemaker and its subordinate oscillators, as well as the connectome that links them.

A master clock in the suprachiasmatic nucleus of the hypothalamus regulates the timing of a wide variety of functions elsewhere in the brain and in the peripheral organs. The molecular basis of the pacemaker is a transcriptional-translational feedback loop, and the expression of a handful of core clock genes determines the phase and period of circadian oscillations. We use immunocytochemical and molecular (hybridization) techniques to localize and quantify the expression of circadian clock as well as clock-controlled genes in the brain and peripheral organs. We are engaged in discovery of core clock components through mutational analysis, which is facilitated by the use of next generation sequencing and real-time luminescent reporting of circadian function in cell lines.

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Academic Background:

  • BA: University of Pennsylvania, 1973
  • Ph.D: University of California, Berkeley, 1978
  • Postdoctoral: University of Michigan, Ann Arbor 1878-82
  • Assistant Professor, Rockefeller University, 1983-1984
Tetel M.J., Ungar, T.C., Hassan, B., and Bittman, E.L., 2004. Photoperiodic regulation of androgen receptor and steroid receptor coactivator-1 in Siberian hamster brain. Brain Research, Molecular Brain Research, 131:79-87.
Cheng, M.Y., Bittman, E.L., Hattar, S.S., Leslie, F., Yau, K-W, and Zhou, Q-Y, 2005. Light regulation of prokineticin 2 molecular rhythm in the suprachiasmatic circadian clock. BMC Neurocience 17:6-17.
Guo, H., Brewer, J.M., Champhekar, A., Harris, R.B.S., and Bittman, E.L., 2005. Differential Control of Peripheral Circadian Rhythms by Suprachiasmatic-dependent Neural Signals. Proc Natl. Acad. Sci. 102:3111-6.
Guo, H., Brewer, J.M., Lehman, M.N., and Bittman, E.L., 2006. Suprachiasmatic regulation of circadian rhythms of gene expression in hamster peripheral organs: effects of transplanting the pacemaker. Journal of Neuroscience, 26:6406-12.
Mahoney, CB, Costello, MK, Brewer, D, Brewer, JM, Schwartz, WJ, and Bittman, EL, 2009. Lateralization of the pacemaker output: A test of neural control of peripheral oscillator phase. Amer J Physio Reg Integ Comp Physiol 299:R751-61. PMID: 20592176
Monecke S, McKinley Brewer J, Krug S, and Bittman, EL, 2011. Duper: A mutation that shortens hamster circadian period. J. Biol. Rhythms 26:283-292. PMID21775287
Krug S, McKinley Brewer J, Bois AS, and Bittman, EL, 2011. Effects of the Duper mutation on circadian responses to light. J. Biol. Rhythms 26:293-304. PMID21775288
Bittman, E.L., 2012. Does the Precision of a Biological Clock Depend upon Its Period? Effects of the Duper and tau Mutations in Syrian Hamsters. PLoS ONE 7(5): e36119. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0036119. PMID:22615753
Mahoney CE, McKinley Brewer J, and Bittman, EL, 2013. Central control of circadian phase in arousal-promoting neurons. PLoS One 8(6):e67173. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0067173. PMID:2382622
Bittman EL, Kilduff TS, Kriegsfeld LJ, Szymusiak R, Toth LA, Turek FW. 2013. Animal care practices in experiments on biological rhythms and sleep: report of the joint task force of the society for research on biological rhythms and the sleep research society. J Am Assn Lab Anim Sci. 2013;52(4):437-43. PMID:23849440
Bittman, EL, 2014. Effects of the duper mutation on responses to light: Parametric and non-parametric responses, range of entrainment, and masking. J. Biol. Rhythms, 29:97-109. PMID:24682204
Manoogian, ENC, Leise, TL, and Bittman, EL, 2014. Phase restting in duper hamsters: Specificity to photic zeitgebers and circadian phase. J Biol Rhythms, in press.

Monitoring and analysis of circadian patterns of activity and physiology relevant to sleep:wake patterns, health and disesase.

Contact Info

Biology Department
420G Morrill III South
611 North Pleasant Street
University of Massachusetts Amherst
Amherst, MA 01003

(413) 545-4344