+ Light at Night May Link to Depression

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Researchers at Ohio State University have produced a study that may link depression to light at night, according to an article in Science Daily.

Researchers found that when mice were housed in a lighted room 24 hours a day, they exhibited more depressive symptoms than did similar mice who had normal light-dark cycles.

However, some mice were housed in constant light but had an escape option: a dark opaque tube they could go into.  They showed less evidence of depressive symptoms than the constant-light mice.

Says Laura Folken, lead author of the study and a graduate student in psychology at OSU, “The ability to escape light seemed to quell the depressive effects.  But constant light, with no chance of escape, increased depressive symptoms.”

Results suggest that more attention needs to be focused on how artificial lighting affects emotional health in humans. 

Co-author Randy Nelson, professor of neuroscience and psychology at Ohio State says

The increasing rate of depressive disorders in humans corresponds with the increasing use of light at night in modern society.  Many people are now exposed to unnatural light cycles, and that may have real consequences for our health.

The researchers presented the work October 21 in Chicago at the meeting of the Society for Neuroscience; it will appear in the December 28, 2009 issue of the journal Behavioral Brain Research.

“This is important for people who work night shifts, and for children and others who watch TV late into the night, disrupting their usual light-dark cycle,” says Fonken.

And there are many other practical implications, says Nelson.  Intensive care units are brightly lit all night long, which might add to the patients’ problems.

source: www.sciencedaily.com article on 10/21/09; journal reference is Laura K Fonken, M Sima Finy, James C Walton, Zachary M Weil, Joanna L Workman, Jessica Ross, Randy J Nelson, “Influence of light at night on murine anxiety- and depressive-like  responses.”  Behavioral Brain Research, 2009; 205 (2): 349 DOI: 10.1016/j.bbr.2009.07.001

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