Researchers from the University of California at San Diego have described how brain activity changes due to shorter daylight hours. Perhaps their scientific work will help in the effective treatment of depressive episodes, which, as a rule, become more frequent with the advent of the cold season.
Psychiatrists analyzed the brain activity of mice to determine molecular changes in the body. Scientists paid special attention to the suprachiasmatic nucleus of the hypothalamus, which is responsible for circadian rhythms – the human biological clock that adjusts all aspects of physiology and behavior to the requirements of the 24-hour world . Neurons in this area of the brain inform the body about changes in daylight hours due to light hitting the retina.
The experiment showed that the neurons of this nucleus are directly related to the production and composition of key neurotransmitters that affect brain activity and behavior. In addition, the researchers found that the length of the day affects neurons in the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus, which regulate growth, metabolism, stress, and the immune and reproductive systems.
This observation allowed scientists to trigger the mechanism of dopamine production and artificially increase the activity of the desired neurons. This manipulation confirmed the benefits of using light therapy to relieve exacerbations of mental illness in the cold season.
Scientists believe that their discovery will improve the effectiveness of the treatment of mental disorders that are affected by the cycles of the seasons: bipolar, seasonal affective disorder and major depressive disorder.
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