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An insight into light as a chronobiological therapy in affective disorders

Authors Walsh J, Atkinson L, Corlett S, Lall G

Received 2 July 2014

Accepted for publication 31 July 2014

Published 4 October 2014 Volume 2014:4 Pages 79—85


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 3

Editor who approved publication: Dr Marc Hebert

Jacqueline M Walsh, Lynsey A Atkinson, Sarah A Corlett, Gurprit S Lall

Medway School of Pharmacy, University of Kent, Chatham, Kent, UK

Abstract: The field of chronobiology has vastly expanded over the past few decades, bringing together research from the fields of circadian rhythms and sleep. The importance of the environmental day–night cycle on our health is becoming increasingly evident as we evolve into a 24-hour society. Reducing or changing sleep times against our natural instincts to rest at night has a detrimental impact on our well-being. The mammalian circadian clock, termed "the suprachiasmatic nucleus", is responsible for synchronizing our behavioral and physiological outputs to the environment. It utilizes light transcoded by specialized retinal photoreceptors as its cue to set internal rhythms to be in phase with the light–dark cycle. Misalignment of these outputs results in symptoms such as altered/disturbed sleep patterns, changes in mood, and physical and mental exhaustion – symptoms shared by many affective clinical disorders. Key links to circadian abnormalities have been found in a number of disorders, such as seasonal affective disorder, nonseasonal depression, and bipolar affective disorder. Furthermore, therapies developed through chronobiological research have been shown to be beneficial in the treatment of these conditions. In this article, we discuss the impact of circadian research on the management of affective disorders, giving evidence of how a misaligned circadian system may be a contributor to the symptoms of depression and how moderating circadian rhythms with light therapy benefits patients.

Keywords: circadian, depression, SAD, nonseasonal, bipolar

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