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Depression & Light

November 12, 2009

Mice exposed to 24-hour artificial light develop depression-like symptoms.


Bad mood-lighting. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Night-shift work has been a cause of many health concerns recently. Now, a study in mice suggests that depression might be among its side effects. Ohio State University psychologist Laura Fonken and her colleagues exposed mice either to 24 hours of artificial light, or a more natural light-dark cycle. After three weeks, they tested the mice for depression-like symptoms. For example, a loss of interest in pleasurable things, like sugar water.

LAURA FONKEN (Ohio State University):
So the mice that were housed in constant light drank less sugar water, which suggests that they found it less pleasurable.

Mice that had access to a dark hideaway avoided some of these effects. It’ll take many more studies to connect this to humans. But on a basic level, the work indicates that too much light can darken the emotions. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.