Study Breaks: Intriguing Findings From Researchers Across Michigan

The science behind getting up on the wrong side of the bed and other findings from Michigan researchers for May 2024.
Stock photograph by Andrea Piacquadio via

Rise and shine?

It’s no surprise that getting too little sleep can leave you feeling irritable. In fact, according to a new study by University of Michigan and Dartmouth Health researchers, sleep deprivation intensifies mood cycles tied to your body’s internal clock. (The bad news: Even if you do get enough Z’s, you still probably won’t feel your best in the morning, as that’s when mood is naturally lowest.)

The researchers collected Fitbit data from over 2,500 physician interns to estimate circadian phase and time awake, then plotted the interns’ self-reported mood scores against those factors.

They found that the participants’ mood hit its lowest point at about 5 a.m. and its highest around 5 p.m. — and that lack of sleep made moods grow worse and fluctuate more. “The study … introduces wearable technology as an exciting new way to explore these factors in mental health issues,” says U-M Medical School professor Danny Forger.

How soil responds to adversity

Scientists from Michigan State University have uncovered insights into how soil recovers after a human-caused disaster.

The team, led by professor Ashley Shade, analyzed soil microbes near a Pennsylvania mine fire that has been burning since 1962. From 2015 to 2021, they sampled soil at various sites before, during, and after the fire crossed them. They then determined what bacteria were present and which were active versus dormant.

While the soil microbiome recovered after the fire passed, the species of bacteria that were active or dormant changed. Since only active microbes help the ecosystem function, these findings could help scientists devise ways to restore ecosystems impacted by ecological disturbances.

“If we can understand what wakes up the dormant microbes, we can try to manage the microbiome, for example, to wake up when we need it to,” Shade says.

Origami bridges may be the future

The principles of origami — the Japanese art of paper folding — have a much broader use than just constructing paper cranes. A group of U-M engineers has created origami modules that can be used to build load-bearing structures such as bridges, walls, and columns.

These modules, which fold compactly and can form various shapes, could allow for quicker rebuilding after natural disasters, construction in difficult places, and efficient setup of temporary structures like concert stages.

Researchers have long endeavored to develop origami systems that can bear significant weight while maintaining their versatility. The key to the U-M system was increasing the thickness of the materials uniformly throughout the structure, rather than in varying spots.

This story originally appeared in the May 2024 issue of Hour Detroit magazine. To read more, pick up a copy of Hour Detroit at a local retail outlet. Our digital edition will be available on May 6.