A forced desynchrony study of circadian pacemaker characteristics in seasonal affective disorder

Kathelijne M. Koorengevel, Domien G.M. Beersma, Johan den Boer, Rutger H. van den Hoofdakker

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Abstract

The circadian pacemaker is an endogenous clock that regulates oscillations in most physiological and psychological processes with a near 24-h period. In many species, this pacemaker triggers seasonal changes in behavior. The seasonality of symptoms and the efficacy of light therapy suggest involvement of the circadian pacemaker in seasonal affective disorder (SAD), winter type. In this study, circadian pacemaker characteristics of SAD patients were compared with those of controls. Seven SAD patients and matched controls were subjected to a 120-h forced desynchrony protocol, in which core body temperature and melatonin secretion profiles were measured for the characterization of circadian pacemaker parameters. During this protocol, which enables the study of unmasked circadian pacemaker characteristics, subjects were exposed to six 20-h days in time isolation. Patients participated twice in winter (while depressed and while remitted after light therapy) and once in summer. Controls participated once in winter and once in summer. Between the SAD patients and controls, no significant differences were observed in the melatonin-derived period or in the phase of the endogenous circadian temperature rhythm. The amplitude of this rhythm was significantly smaller in depressed and remitted SAD patients than in controls. No abnormalities of the circadian pacemaker were observed in SAD patients. A disturbance in thermoregulatory processes might explain the smaller circadian temperature amplitude in SAD patients during winter.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)463-475
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Biological Rhythms
Volume17
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct-2002

Keywords

  • seasonal affective disorder
  • circadian pacemaker
  • circadian rhythms
  • core body temperature
  • melatonin
  • forced desynchrony
  • LIGHT MELATONIN ONSET
  • CORE BODY-TEMPERATURE
  • HYPERSOMNIC WINTER DEPRESSION
  • SLEEP-DEPRIVATION
  • CONSTANT ROUTINE
  • COGNITIVE PERFORMANCE
  • RHYTHMS
  • PHASE
  • HUMANS
  • MOOD

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