Research sheds new light on mood disorders - study

Researchers found a functional link between light exposure and PFC-mediated brain activity, which could mean new treatments for several mood disorders.

SOME ESTIMATES say more than 300 million people throughout the world suffer from major depression. (photo credit: GENETIKA)
SOME ESTIMATES say more than 300 million people throughout the world suffer from major depression.
(photo credit: GENETIKA)

A new peer-reviewed study out of Brown University uncovered new information about how light affects a person's mood.

What did the researchers seek to find?

The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health, and Alcon Research Institute Award, Brown University’s Division of Biology and Medicine, the National Institute of Psychobiology of Israel, and a Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship of Canada.

“The findings from our study offer a functional link between light exposure and prefrontal cortex-mediated cognitive and affective responses,”

Lead study author Prof. Jerome Sanes.

The team sought to determine whether or not a mood-regulating neural pathway found in non-human animals that connects photosensitive retinal ganglion cells in the eyes to the brain's prefrontal cortex (PFC) is also found in humans. The study was conducted with researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), researchers were able to conclude that there is a functional link between light exposure and PFC-mediated brain activity.

Depression (illustrative) (credit: ING IMAGE)Depression (illustrative) (credit: ING IMAGE)

“The findings from our study offer a functional link between light exposure and prefrontal cortex-mediated cognitive and affective responses,” said lead study author Prof. Sanes.

Implications for depression treatments

Sanes explained that the experiment's findings have implications for understanding mood disorders such as seasonal affective disorder and major depressive disorders.

“Identifying this pathway and understanding its function might directly promote [the] development of approaches to treat depression, either by pharmacological manipulations or non-invasive brain stimulation in selected nodes of the pathway or with targeted bright-light therapy,” Sanes said. 

“Identifying this pathway and understanding its function might directly promote [the] development of approaches to treat depression, either by pharmacological manipulations or non-invasive brain stimulation in selected nodes of the pathway or with targeted bright-light therapy.”

Lead study author Prof. Sanes