Chronobiology, University of Surrey

Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences

Debra J. Skene
United Kingdom
+441483 689706
Contact E-mail:
Research Domain
  • Basic Human
  • Sleep and Ageing
  • Sleep and Body Functions (Cardio-Respiratory, Thermoregulation/Metabolism, Endocrine)
  • Light and Non-Classical Photoreception
  • Biological Rhythms
  • Molecular Biology-Endocrinology-Biochemistry

Laboratory description

Research is focussed on the human circadian timing system in particular investigation of the causes, consequences and treatment of circadian rhythm disorders (such as shift work, jet lag and blindness). Optimisation of therapies to correct human clock disorders, such as appropriately timed light and melatonin, is a long term goal. Research areas include visual loss and circadian rhythms; circadian photoreception; ageing and the circadian timing system; factors affecting adaptation to shift work; metabolic and cardiovascular consequences of circadian desynchrony; circadian metabolomics.

Technical Capabilities and areas of expertise

Assessment of human circadian rhythms
Circadian protocols for laboratory and field studies
Measurement of hormones (melatonin, cortisol, insulin, leptin)
Human rest-activity rhythms with actigraphy
Monitoring of ambulatory light exposure

Additional Descriptors, Keywords

Circadian rhythm sleep disorders
Shift work sleep disorder
Non 24 h sleep/wake disorder
Lighting for health

Selected Publications in the 5 past years:

Otway, D.T., Mäntele, S., Bretschneider, S., Wright, J., Trayhurn, P., Skene, D.J., Robertson, M.D. and Johnston, J.D. Rhythmic diurnal gene expression in human adipose tissue from individuals who are lean, overweight and have type 2 diabetes. Diabetes (2011) 60, 1577-1581.

Montagnese, S., Middleton, B., Mani, A.R., Skene, D.J. and Morgan, M.Y. Changes in the 24-h plasma cortisol rhythm in patients with cirrhosis. J. Hepatol. (2011) 54, 588-590.

Pagani, L., Semenova, E.A., Moriggi, E., Revell, V.L., Hack, L.M., Lockley, S.W., Arendt, J., Skene, D.J., Meier, F., Izakovic, J., Wirz-Justice, A., Cajochen, C., Sergeeva, O.J., Cheresiz, S.V., Danilenko, K.V., Eckert, A. and Brown, S.A. The physiological period length of the human circadian clock in vivo is directly proportional to period in human fibroblasts. PLoS One (2010) 5, e13376.

Revell, V.L., Barrett, D.C.G., Schlangen, L.J.M. and Skene, D.J. Predicting human nocturnal non-visual responses to monochromatic and polychromatic light with a melanopsin photosensitivity function. Chronobiol Int. (2010) 27, 1762-1777.

Thorne, H.C., Hampton, S.M., Morgan, L.M., Skene, D.J. and Arendt, J. Returning from night shift to day life:Beneficial effects of light on sleep. Sleep and Biological Rhythms (2010) 8, 212-221.

Wehrens, S.M.T., Hampton, S.M., Finn, R.E. and Skene, D.J. Effect of total sleep deprivation on postprandial metabolic and insulin responses in shift workers and non-shift workers. J. Endocrinol (2010) 206, 205-215.

Archer, S.N., Carpen, J.D., Gibson, M., Lim, G.H., Johnston, J.D., Skene, D.J. and von Schantz, M. Polymorphism in the PER3 promoter associates with diurnal preference and delayed sleep phase disorder. Sleep (2010) 33, 695-701.

Montagnese, S., Middleton, B., Mani, A.R., Skene, D.J. and Morgan, M.Y. On the origin and the consequences of circadian abnormalities in patients with cirrhosis. Am J Gastroenterol. (2010) 105, 1773-1781.

Revell, V. and Skene, D.J. The impact of age on human non-visual responses to light. Sleep and Biological Rhythms (2010) 8, 84-94.

Montagnese, S., Middleton, B., Mani, A.R., Skene, D.J. and Morgan, M.Y. Melatonin rhythms in patients with cirrhosis. Am. J. Gastroenterol. (2010) 105, 220-222, author reply 222.

Jud, C., Chappuis, S., Revell, V.L., Sletten, T.L., Saaltink, D.J., Cajochen, C., Skene, D.J., Albrecht, U. Age-dependent alterations in human PER2 levels after early morning blue light exposure. Chronobiol Int. (2009) 26, 1462-1469.

Montagnese, S., Middleton, B., Mani, A.R., Skene, D.J. and Morgan, M.Y. Sleep and circadian abnormalities in patients with cirrhosis: features of delayed sleep phase syndrome? Metab. Brain Dis. (2009) 24, 427-439.

Staples, V.S., Archer, S.N., Arber, S. and Skene, D.J. Daily light exposure profiles in older non resident extreme morning and evening types. J. Sleep Res. (2009) 18, 466-471.

Montagnese, S., Middleton, B., Skene, D.J. and Morgan, M.Y. Night-time sleep disturbance does not correlate with neuropsychiatric impairment in patients with cirrhosis. Liver Int. (2009) 29, 1372-1382.

Montagnese, S., Middleton, B., Skene, D.J. and Morgan, M.Y. Sleep-wake patterns in patients with cirrhosis: All you need to know on a single sheet A simple sleep questionnaire for clinical use. J. Hepatol. (2009) 51, 690-695.

Ackermann, K., Sletten, T.L., Revell, V.L., Archer, S.N. and Skene, D.J. Blue-light phase shifts PER3 gene expression in human leukocytes. Chronobiology Int. (2009) 26, 769-779.

Sletten, T.L., Revell, V.L., Middleton, B., Lederle, K.A. and Skene, D.J. Age-related changes in acute and phase advancing responses to monochromatic light. J. Biol. Rhythms (2009) 24, 73-84.

Lockley, S.W., Dijk, D.J., Kosti, O., Skene, D.J. and Arendt, J. Alertness, mood and performance rhythm disturbances associated with circadian sleep disorders in the blind. J. Sleep Res. (2008) 17, 207-216.

Revell, V.L. and Skene, D.J. Light-induced melatonin suppression in humans with polychromatic and monochromatic light. Chronobiol. Int. (2007) 24, 1125-1137.

Gögenur, I., Middleton, B., Kristiansen, V.B., Skene, D.J. and Rosenberg, J. Disturbances in melatonin and core body temperature circadian rhythms after minimal invasive surgery. Acta Anaesthesiol Scand (2007) 51, 1099-1106.

Skene, D.J. and Arendt, J. Circadian rhythm sleep disorders in the blind and their treatment with melatonin. Sleep Medicine (2007) 8, 651-655.

Viola, A.U., Archer, S.N., James, L.M., Groeger, J.A., Lo, J.C.Y., Skene, D.J., von Schantz, M. and Dijk, D-J. PER3 polymorphism predicts sleep structure and waking performance. Current Biol. (2007) 17, 613-618.

Gögenur, I., Ocak, U., Altunpinar, Ö., Middleton, B., Skene. D.J. and Rosenberg, J. Disturbances in melatonin, cortisol and core body temperature rhythms after major surgery. World J. Surgery (2007) 31, 290-298.

Jones, K.H.S., Ellis, J., von Schantz, M., Skene, D.J., Dijk, D-J. and Archer, S.N. Age-related change in the association between a polymorphism in the PER3 gene and preferred timing of sleep and waking activities. J Sleep Res. (2007) 16, 12-16.

Revell, V.L., Arendt, J., Fogg, L.F. and Skene, D.J. Alerting effects of light are sensitive to very short wavelengths. Neurosci. Letts. (2006) 399, 96-100.

Key Publications of the Laboratory:

Revell, V.L., Arendt, J., Terman, M. and Skene, D.J. Short-wavelength sensitivity of the human circadian system to phase-advancing light. J. Biol. Rhythms (2005) 20, 270-272.

Herljevic, M., Middleton, B., Thapan, K. and Skene, D.J. Light-induced melatonin suppression: Age-related reduction in response to short wavelength light. Experimental Gerontol. (2005) 40, 237-242.

Mistlberger, R. and Skene, D.J. Nonphotic entrainment in humans? J. Biol. Rhythms (2005) 20, 339-352.

Hack, L.M., Lockley, S.W., Arendt, J. and Skene, D.J. The effects of low dose 0.5 mg melatonin on the free-running circadian rhythms of blind subjects. J. Biol. Rhythms (2003) 18, 420-429.

Warman, V.L., Djik, D.-J., Warman, G., Arendt, J. and Skene, D.J. Phase advancing human circadian rhythms with short wavelength light. Neurosci. Letts. (2003) 342, 37-40.

Archer, S.N., Robilliard, D.L., Skene, D.J., Smits, M.G., Williams, A., Arendt, J. and von Schantz M. A length polymorphism in the circadian clock gene Per3 is linked to delayed sleep phase syndrome and extreme diurnal preference. Sleep (2003) 26, 413-415.45.

Robilliard, D.L., Archer, S.N., Arendt, J., Lockley, S.W., Hack, L.M., English, J., Leger, D., Smits, M.G., Williams, A., Skene, D.J. and von Schantz M. The 3111Clock gene polymorphism is not associated with sleep and circadian rhythmicity in phenotypically characterised human subjects. J. Sleep Res. (2002) 11, 305-312.

Thapan, K., Arendt, J. and Skene, D.J. An action spectrum for melatonin suppression: evidence for a novel non-rod, non-cone photoreceptor system in humans. J. Physiol. (2001) 535, 261-267

Lockley, S.W., Skene, D.J., James, K., Thapan, K., Wright, J. and Arendt, J. Melatonin administration can entrain the free-running circadian system of blind subjects. J. Endocr. (2000) 164, R1-R6.

Lockley, S.W., Skene, D.J. and Arendt, J. Comparison between subjective and actigraphic measurements of sleep and sleep rhythms. J. Sleep Res. (1999) 8, 175-183.

Lockley, S.W., Skene, D.J., Butler, L. and Arendt, J. Sleep and activity rhythms are related to circadian phase in the blind. Sleep (1999) 22, 616-623.

Arendt, J., Middleton, B., Stone, B. and Skene, D. Complex effects of melatonin: evidence for photoperiodic responses in humans? Sleep (1999) 22, 625-635.

Skene, D.J., Lockley, S.W., James, K. and Arendt, J. Correlation between urinary cortisol and 6-sulphatoxymelatonin rhythms in field studies of blind subjects. Clin. Endocrinol. (1999) 50, 715-719.

Tabandeh, H., Lockley, S.W., Buttery, R., Skene, D.J., Defrance, R., Arendt, J. amd Bird, A.C. Disturbance of sleep in blindness. Amer. J. Ophthalmol. (1998) 126, 707-712.

Lockley, S.W., Skene, D.J., Thapan, K, English, J., Ribeiro, D., Haimov, I., Hampton, S., Middleton, B., von Schantz, M. and Arendt, J. Extraocular light exposure does not suppress plasma melatonin in humans. J. Clin. Endocrinol. Metab. (1998) 83, 3369-3372.

Lockley, S.W., Skene, D.J., Arendt, J., Tabandeh, H., Bird, A.C. and Defrance, R. Relationship between melatonin rhythms and visual loss in the blind. J. Clin. Endocrinol. Metab. (1997) 82, 3763-3770.

Arendt, J., Skene, D.J., Middleton, B., Lockley, S.W. and Deacon, S. Efficacy of melatonin treatment in jet lag, shift work and blindness. J. Biol. Rhythms (1997) 12, 604-617.

Lockley, S.W., Skene, D.J., Tabandeh, H., Bird, A.C., Defrance, R. and Arendt, J. Relationship between napping and melatonin in the blind. J. Biol. Rhythms (1997) 12, 16-25.

Ruberg, F.L., Skene, D.J., Hanifin, J.P., Rollag, M.D., English, J., Arendt, J. and Brainard, G.C. Melatonin regulation in humans with color vision deficiencies. J. Clin. Endocrinol. Metab. (1996) 81, 2980-2985.

Lockley, S.W., Tabandeh, H., Skene, D., Buttery, R., Bird, A.C., Defrance, R. and Arendt, J. Day-time naps and melatonin in blind people. Lancet (1995) 346, 1491.

Bojkowski, C.J., Aldhous, M.E., English, J., Franey, C., Poulton, A.L., Skene, D.J. and Arendt, J. Suppression of nocturnal plasma melatonin and 6-sulphatoxymelatonin by bright and dim light in man. Horm. Metab. Res. (1987) 9, 437-440.

Current/Completed Grants (past 5 years):

2005 – 2009 EU FP6 Marie Curie Research Training Networks, The biomedical and sociological effects of sleep restriction, MCRTN-CT-2004-512362 (D.J. Skene (PI), S. Arber), £1,009,228.

2006 – 2011 EU FP6 IP, EUCLOCK, Entrainment of the circadian clock, LSHM-CT-2006-018741 (D.J. Skene (PI), D.J.Djik, S.Hampton, B.Middleton), 455,898 euros.

2006 – 2011 New Dynamics of Ageing (NDA) Research Programme, SomnIA – Optimising Quality of Sleep Among Older People in the Community and Care Homes: An integrated approach (S. Arber (PI), D.J. Skene, I. Eyers), £1,892,973 (£477,124 to DJS).

2007 – 2008 Philips Lighting, Light combinations to determine photopigment involvement in human non-image-forming responses to light (D.J. Skene (PI), V.Revell), 82,000 euros (£62,000).

2008 – 2009 Diabetes UK, Are daily rhythms of adipokine synthesis and secretion abnormal in patients with Type 2 diabetes mellitus? (J.D. Johnston (PI), M.D. Robertson, D.J.Skene), £83,362.

2008 – 2009 Wellcome Trust Arts Awards, Black Tonic (Katie Day, The Other Way Works, PI, D.J. Skene), £24,950.

2008 – 2009 To Be First AG, The effect of cranial electrical stimulation (CES) on nocturnal plasma melatonin levels (D.J. Skene (PI), V.L. Revell), £30,096.

2009 – 2011 Erasmus University Medical Center Rotterdam, Forensics meets chronobiology: Determining human body time during sleep and extended wakefulness. (D.J. Skene (PI) and V.L. Revell), £86,714.

2010 – 2011 Philips Research Grant Award, Optimisation of lighting for health and well-being: the interaction of light duration and irradiance. (V.L. Revell (PI), C. Papamichael and D.J.Skene), $100,000.

2011 – 2014 BBSRC, Food entrainment of the human circadian timing system. (J.D. Johnston (PI), D.J. Skene, Archer, S.N. and Gibbs, M.), £956,399.

2011 – 2016 EU FP7-HEALTH-2011, EuRhythDia, Impact of lifestyle interventions on diabetogenic and atherogenic effects of changes in diurnal rhythm, (D.J. Skene (PI, Surrey)), 166,277 euros.

2011 – 2014 BBSRC, Effect of the circadian clock time of day and sleep on the human metabolome:
identification of metabolite rhythms (D.J. Skene (PI), F. Raynaud (ICR), V.L. Revell, A.E. Thumser, £948,715.

Other laboratory Members

Title:  PhD

Name:  Victoria L Revell

Position:  Lecturer


Title:  PhD

Name:  Benita Middleton

Position:  Senior Research Fellow


Title:  PhD

Name:  Samantha Hopkins

Position:  Post-doctoral researcher


Title:  PhD

Name:  Thomas Kantermann

Position:  Post-doctoral Researcher


Title:  PhD

Name:  Sophie M.T. Wehrens

Position:  Post-doctoral researcher


Title:  BSc

Name:  Cheryl Isherwood

Position:  Research Officer


Title:  BSc

Name:  Simone Maentele

Position:  PhD student


Title:  BSc

Name:  Peter Lloyd Morgan

Position:  PhD student


Title:  BSc

Name:  Christiana Papamichael

Position:  PhD student


Past Members

Title:  PhD

Name:  Katrin Ackermann

Position:  Post-doctoral Researcher


Title:  PhD

Name:  Katharina Lederle


Title:  PhD MD

Name:  Sara Montagnese

Position:  Clinician


Title:  PhD

Name:  Tracey L. Sletten

Position:  Research Fellow


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