Research & Bio

Horacio de la Iglesia finished his undergraduate studies in Biology at the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina. He got his PhD in Neuroscience and Behavior at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where working with Eric Bittman he studied the neuroanatomical interactions between the master circadian clock of mammals and the brain centers that control reproduction. He then continued his research on the neural control of circadian rhythms as a Post-doctoral Fellow and as an Instructor in the laboratory of William Schwartz at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He was also an Instructor at Harvard University where he taught a course on Stem Cells. Dr. de la Iglesia joined the University of Washington Department of Biology in 2003.

Research Interests

Research in our laboratory is guided to understand the neural basis of behavior. Specifically, we are interested in biological timing, which can be studied at different levels of organization, using different approaches and throughout the phylogenetic tree.

Biological timing in mammals

Virtually all living species have biological clocks that generate and control the daily cyclic variations in physiology and behavior, such us rhythms in locomotor activity, temperature and hormonal secretion. In mammals, the master control of these so-called circadian rhythms is exerted by a biological clock located within the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) of the brain. We use behavioral, physiological and molecular techniques in order to understand how the SCN generates and orchestrates this array of circadian rhythms.

Biological timing in humans

Human circadian clocks also regulate of physiology and behavior. We study human participants in their natural environment using non-invasive wearable wrist devices that allow an accurate assessment of the timing of sleep and the exposure to light. The first project monitors the sleep-wake cycle in the historically hunter-gatherer indigenous Toba/Qom, in the Argentinean Chaco. Some of these communities have free-access to electricity whereas others still rely on natural daylight for all their activities. Because the human circadian system is remarkably sensitive to light, we seek to determine the impact of artificial light on what may have been our ancestral sleep timing. The second project studies sleep-wake cycles in students at The University of Washington. We continuously monitor the sleep-wake cycle and exposure to light to determine whether and how specific sleep-wake profiles may impact academic performance.

Biological timing in intertidal crustaceans

Species of the intertidal zone show behavioral and physiological rhythms synchronized to the tidal cycle. These circatidal rhythms also rely on biological clocks and a second line of research in our laboratory is directed to identify the molecular mechanisms and neural pathways by which these clocks are able to sustain rhythms in decapod crustaceans. For this project we study organisms from a unique community of crustaceans distributed throughout the intertidal habitats of our beloved Pacific Northwest.