Directors: Antonio M. Battro and Kurt W. Fischer
Program officer: María Lourdes Majdalani
Learning and teaching in chronobiology: two faces of the same coin
To learn by doing is one of the most efficient ways of teaching in contrast to more classical procedures based in passive methodologies. In addition, well designed experiments, using non-invasive sampling procedures based in autorhythmometry, can be useful both, for students, since they are involved in designing, analysing and discussing results on chronobiology, and also for teaching, because we can use the results obtained to explore new techniques or applications of chronobiology to clinical practice.
The aim of our project is to design new active methodologies to teach medical chronobiology while improving student's practical formation. To this, a total of 300 students from Medical and Biology degrees at the University of Murcia (20 - 24 yr. old; 120 men, 180 women) were involved in the project. Basically, seven research lines were developed in the last five years:
1.-Authorhythmometric determination of oral temperature, heart rate, blood pressure, hand grip strength, peak expiratory flow, reaction time and sensorymotor coordination during twenty four hours.
2.-Oral tolerance test (OTT): timing is important. The OTT was performed at different times around the clock.
3.-Peripheral wrist temperature rhythms (WT), using IButtoms data logger and sleep and meal time diary, we evaluate the reliability of WT as a marker rhythm of the circadian system in normal living subjects.
4.-Salivary cortisol, WT and impact of weekend night's fever in Spain.
5.-Light exposure as a zeitgeber in different hospital environments. Light-dark cycles were monitored at different units: normal rooms, intensity care units and neonatal units
6.-Use of questionnaires to evaluate chronotypes and life-style regularity. The classical Horne and Otsberg questionnaire was implemented with a new, sleep and meal time diary, and life-style regularity test developed by our students.
7.-Chronobiological aspects of traffic and workplace accidents using the Official Spanish databases.
A centralized database was created and maintained by our postgraduate students and uploaded in University of Murcia´s intranet for general use among our students. Each subject signs an informed consent and is assigned an individual code. Students are encouraged to design their own experiments, contrast hypothesis and, consequently, write an experimental paper which is presented orally at the end of their Chronobiology course. The high number of variables and factors studied in the same individuals multiples considerably the possibilities to test hypothesis, thus topics repetition is practically non-existent.
In conclusion, this experimental activity allow us to reach two objectives: teach the students how to do interesting experiments on chronobiology by themselves, and provides information both to illustrate our lectures with direct examples obtained from the students themselves and, why not, to present this learning techniques in congress or specialized journals.