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September 1986

Phototherapy of Seasonal Affective Disorder: Time of Day and Suppression of Melatonin Are Not Critical for Antidepressant Effects

Author Affiliations

From the Clinical Psychobiology Branch, National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, Md.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1986;43(9):870-875. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1986.01800090060008

• Seasonal affective disorder is characterized by recurring cycles of fall-winter depression and spring-summer hypomania (or euthymia). In winter, depressed patients with seasonal affective disorder respond to daily treatments with five to six hours of bright artificial light in two to three days. They relapse two to three days after light is withdrawn. In this study carefully controlled experimental conditions were used to determine whether phototherapy acts via a photoperiodic mechanism In which the timing of light is critical for its therapeutic effect. Photoperiodism is a common regulatory mechanism in animal seasonal rhythms and depends for its effect on light-induced changes in the pattern of nocturnal melatonin secretion. The results reported herein of "skeleton photoperiod" experiments indicate that the efficacy of phototherapy may not depend on its timing or its effect on melatonin secretion.