It probably seems odd that I’m writing about seasonal depression when spring
is right around the corner. But in October, I did a blog about Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). The symptoms mimic those of depression, and the disorder is believed to be triggered by changes in daylight, making it more prevalent in the late fall heading into the winter months when the days get shorter. Well, now it seems there might be a gene that predisposes a person to SAD. The details were published today in the in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Because SAD almost always occurs during the winter months, researchers have believed the condition was triggered by light or rather the lack of light. It is believed that the changes in sunlight affect the circadian rhythms of people with SAD messing up their biological clocks. It is also believed that the increase in the production of melatonin, which is produced at higher levels in the dark could also be a cause.
The researchers in this new study analyzed a group of patients with SAD and also with another sleep disorder called Familial Advance Sleep-Phase syndrome. They identified a mutation in a gene called PER3 suggesting that this gene might both affect sleep and mood.
You can click below to read more of the details of the study. This team of researchers actively believes that there is a gene connection. Dr. Louis Ptáček, also a professor of neurology at the UCSF School of Medicine, said to MNT, “This is the first human mutation directly linked to seasonal affective disorder, and the first clear sign of a mechanism that could link sleep to mood disorders.”
This is an exciting time in research because the more we understand what causes these disorders, the better treatment options we can offer to patients.
Information contained in this blog is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended as medical or psychiatric advice for individual conditions or treatment and does not substitute for a medical or psychiatric examination. A psychiatrist must make a determination about any treatment or prescription. Dr. Paul does not assume any responsibility or risk for the use of any information contained within this blog.