Circadian systems biology in seasonal affective disorder

Timo Partonen

in Seasonal Affective Disorder

Second edition

Published on behalf of Oxford University Press

Published in print October 2009 | ISBN: 9780199544288
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191754593 | DOI:
Circadian systems biology in seasonal affective disorder

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Since the first systematic description of SAD 25 years ago, substantial research has been devoted to investigating the clinical picture and treating patients. However, there are still areas in which further studies can be of great benefit. Phenotype measurement is a general concern in psychiatric genetics; a clinical diagnosis, no matter how care- fully assessed, might not be the optimal biological phenotype for a genetic analysis. The use of more homogenous phenotypic definitions has been proposed such as clinical subtypes like seasonal depression or response to a certain treatment, or endophenotypes with less genetic complexity and quantitative traits albeit not necessarily exclusive for the disease.

The etiology of winter depression seems far more complex than initially thought. Basic science is now providing important insights into the nature of SAD and valuable methods by which its genetic basis and pathogenesis can be addressed in more detail. Methods include applications of biology and genetics into molecular medicine and psychiatry. Research using these methods has been developing fast and is about to step into the post-genomic era after the complete mapping of the human genome. In addition, the mechanisms and sites of action of bright-light exposure await clarification in order for highly specific therapies and the optimal strategies for clinical management to be developed.

These discoveries will certainly elucidate the molecular mechanisms of key importance for the pathogenesis of winter depression. It may well be that after the key mechanisms of action and interactive molecules have been identified and characterized, the development of a vaccine against depressive episodes in general (Lewitus et al. 2008), specifically against depressive disorders with metabolic syndrome components such as hypertension (Brown et al. 2008; Tissot et al. 2008) or against the deepening of depression in spring in particular, is realistic and may become a goal to be achieved.

Chapter.  8115 words. 

Subjects: Psychiatry

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