Thursday, November 3, 2011

You're a hypocretin!

So you may have read here at one time or another that I get seasonal depression (it used to be pretty severe- now it's not as bad). That is part of the reason I don't like winter and one of the reasons Key West is so attractive me. Though Colorado is sunny quite a few days of the year, the short winter days still carry me to the brink of depression and the cold only makes matters worse. It all sounds pretty grim but...

There have been some interesting studies done at UCLA that may be hold some good for people who suffer from Narcolepsy and a sleepiness associated with Parkinson's and it might also mean some good news for anyone who suffers from seasonal depression! Researchers at the university have identified the group of neurons that mediates whether we respond to light by becoming stimulated-- or not. 

So the long and short of the study is that in the hypothalmus (an area at the base of the brain and is responsible for control of the autonomic nervous system, body temperature, hunger thirst, fatigue, sleep) there are cells that release a neurotransmitter called hypocretin. In a study with mice, those with hypocretin showed an intense activation of the cells (but not in the dark!) while those without it were unable to stay awake even in bright light. And it is this loss of hypocretin that causes chronic sleep disorders. So, by introducing hypocretin (or boosting it) they will be able to increase the light-induced arousal response while blocking them will induce sleep. Jerome Siegel, a professor of psychiatry at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at the university noted, "The administration of hypocretin may also have antidepressant properties, and blocking it may increase tendencies toward depression. So we feel this work has implications for treating sleep disorders as well as depression." Since seasonal depression is connected to light stimulation, it seems likely that these results could have some very positive results for those of us who get the winter blues!*
 Could be blue skies ahead for those who suffer depression!!! 

*See the whole article at Science Daily. Brain Cells Responsible for Keeping us Awake Identified.


  1. Hope you get some relief from your seasonal depression.

    This picture with its lovely blues is so uplifting!

  2. I know that seasonal depression is a common thing. Quite often I feel more depressed during summer though - it's too damn hot! Our winters are relatively mild. I will admit that it's not easy getting up for work when it's still dark.

  3. This must explain why we get a bazillion visitors to the desert during the winter months. :) I love the winter; it's the summer that gets on my nerves (usually around late August).

  4. I really hope this research results in something on the pharmaceutical shelves soon. I know of several people with seasonal depression and one who has parkinsons as well as the seasonal depression. Hope this research brings good news fast.

  5. You really don't have to justify why you like Key West. A person would have to be mentally retarded not to like Key West.

  6. I don't like this time of year either, Danette. I have trouble getting started in the dark mornings, and it seems to get worse the older I get. It's encouraging to think there might be relief on its way (other than retirement, of course.)


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