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Turning down lights at night may help prevent depression

NEED TO KNOW
  • Light in-take affects the brain's mood, memory and learning centers
  • Extreme exposure to bright light at night elevates cortisol
Turning down lights at night may help prevent depression

New research published in the journal Nature suggests that turning down the lights at night may prevent depression.

As mentioned in U.S.News & World Report this week, the study was done with mice because they have the same type of special photosensitive retinal cells (ipRGCs) in their eyes as human-beings do.

Researchers explained that ipRGCs are stimulated by light in-take, which affects the brain's mood, memory and learning centers.

After exposing the mice to 3.5 hours of light and 3.5 hours of darkness, they observed a drop in their activity and less interest in sugar, equating those results to depression.

Extreme exposure to bright light at night elevates cortisol, which is a stress hormone that can cause depression and lessen cognitive functions.

The researchers created light-exposure patterns in such a way that they could rule out the possibility that “circadian rhythm and sleep disruption were responsible for the changes in mood and learning ability they observed,” the site reported.

Study co-author Samer Hattar, an associate professor of biology and neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University, in Baltimore believes the study should be done with humans.

He tells HealthDay, “Even if it comes out not as clear as it did in mice, I think there will be some benefit for people to turn down their lights at night. I don't think there is any harm in it."

Read more of the report here.

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