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Minerva Psichiatrica 2007 March;48(1):119-27


language: Italian

The relationship between light, mental function and pineal gland

Bossini L., Valdagno M., Padula L., Castrogiovanni P.

Unità di Psichiatria Dipartimento di Neuroscienze Policlinico Le Scotte Università degli Studi di Siena, Siena


In normal subjects, the pineal hormone, that regulates the rhythm of many functions, exhibits a circadian pattern syncronized with the day-night cycle. Melatonin allows the biological rhythms’ carrying out; it lets the organisms keep a dynamic chronobiological balance fundamental for homeostasis, thus permitting living beings to mould themselves on the basis of environmental modification. Light causes several effects on organisms, and, although the intimate mechanisms remain unknown, it is widely confirmed that light acts on human central nervous system on various levels. Mood is the first parameter that seems to be involved in the relationship between sunlight and mental functioning. An alteration of this secretory pattern has been found in various psychiatric disorders (seasonal affective disorder, bipolar disorder, unipolar depression, bulimia, anorexia, schizophrenia, panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder) and it seems to influence both seasonality onset and recurrency of different disorders; also seasonality of birth could be involved. At present it is not known if such alterations have an etiological role or are secondary to the dysfunctions underlying the different disorders. In addition, we do not know if the involvement of melatonin has the same significance in the pathophysiology of each disorder. If light’s influence on mood disorders is relatively well known, this has not been deeply investigated into anxiety disorders yet: in detail, panic disorder seems to be mostly susceptible to light’s variations. An understanding of the role of the pineal hormone and of its alterations in psychiatric diseases could help to identify the biological mechanisms underlying such disorders.

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