phone: 312-908-8549      
fax: 312-908-5073      

Phyllis Zee, M.D.

  • Associate Director, Center for Sleep & Circadian Biology
  • Professor, Northwestern University Institute for Neuroscience

Research Interests

We are interested in how aging alters the circadian clock system of mammals and its relationship to circadian rhythm and sleep disorders in humans. Our laboratory performs basic research with animals, as well as clinical research with humans.

Our basic science studies involve examination of the neurochemical events which underlie aging of the circadian clock. A variety of pharmacological approaches are used to restore the responsiveness of the circadian system to light.

In the clinical setting, we are quantifying exposure to synchronizing agents for the circadian clock in residents of assisted living facilities and to determine whether exposure to scheduled bright light and structured activity cycles will correct some of the age-related changes of the human circadian system and result in the improvement of performance, mood, daytime alertness, and sleep.

On the genetics research, we have identified several families with circadian rhythm disorders and restless legs syndrome. We are in the process of characterizing the phenotype of these patients and collecting DNA samples for genetic analysis.

It is hoped that the combined basic science and clinical approach will lead to important information which can be used to improve nocturnal sleep, daytime performance, and overall quality of life in older adults.

Selected References:

  • Naylor E, Bergmann BM, Krauski K, Zee PC, Takahashi JS, Vitaterna MH, Turek FW. (2000) The circadian clock mutation alters sleep homeostasis in the mouse. J Neurosci. 1;20(21):8138-43.
  • Naylor E, Penev PD, Orbeta L, Janssen I, Ortiz R, Colecchia EF, Keng M, Finkel S, Zee PC. (2000) Daily social and physical activity increases slow-wave sleep and daytime neuropsychological performance in the elderly. Sleep. 1;23(1):87-95.
  • Benloucif S, Bauer GL, Dubocovich ML, Finkel SI, Zee PC. (1999) Nimodipine potentiates the light-induced suppression of melatonin. Neurosci Lett. 3;272(1):67-71.
  • Zhang Y, Brainard GC, Zee PC, Pinto LH, Takahashi JS, Turek FW. (1998) Effects of aging on lens transmittance and retinal input to the suprachiasmatic nucleus in golden hamsters. Neurosci Lett. 24;258(3):167-70.
  • Penev PD, Kolker DE, Zee PC, Turek FW. (1998) Chronic circadian desynchronization decreases the survival of animals with cardiomyopathic heart disease. Am J Physiol. 275(6 Pt 2):H2334-7.
  • Naylor E, Buxton OM, Bergmann BM, Easton A, Zee PC, Turek FW. (1998) Effects of aging on sleep in the golden hamster. Sleep. 1;21(7):687-93.
  • Labyak SE, Turek FW, Wallen EP, Zee PC. (1998) Effects of bright light on age-related changes in the locomotor activity of Syrian hamsters. Am J Physiol. 274(3 Pt 2):R830-9.