Night Light and Depression: Research Advance for Nighttime-Light-Induced Depressive Behaviors in Mice

  • [2020-06-08]

    Do you have the habit of bringing cellphone up in bed? Well, think it over -- for it can be related to depression if excessive.

    Researchers at USTC recently found the light-at-night induced depressive-like behaviors in mice, without disturbing the circadian rhythm. The findings were up on the Nature Neuroscience at June 1st. USTC Prof.XUE Tian led the research.

    Nowadays common cellphone usage at night

    Light matters in all lives on earth. Besides generating vision of our eyes, light modulates various physiological functions, including mood. Excessive light exposure at night has been reportedly associated with depressive symptoms.

    Researchers first demonstrated this in their experiments. They simulated the abnormal illumination of the modern world, 2 hours per night, for 3 weeks. “This way it induces the depressive-like behaviors without disturbing its daily rhythm,” said AN Kai, first author of the paper.

    Of course that the habits of mice differ from humans', but their behaviors are still governed by change of illumination and circadian rhythm. When light at night increased, the research uncovered, that although the mice’s circadian rhythm remained almost unchanged, they gradually performed some abnormal behaviors. When faced with their favorite sugary water, for example, their interests decreased!

    Researchers revealed that the depressive effect was mediated by a neural pathway, and importantly they showed that one node of the pathway was gated by the circadian rhythm, being more excitable at night than at day, which indicates that the pathway preferentially conducts light signals at night, thereby mediating depressive-like behaviors.

    The relavant neural pathway (Image by XUE et al.)

    Authors remind, however, that whether the research can be applied to human requires further proof. But what can be certain is, considering the prevalent nighttime devices usage in the modern world, we should at least be careful.

    “Our findings provide clues for how to impede the negative mood induced by abnormal light environment, helping in explaining the clinical observations with the potential neural pathway mechanism,” Prof. XUE said.

    Paper Link:

    (Written by QIANG Jiaxuan, edited by JIANG Pengcen, USTC News Center)



Highlight of USTC

On May 11, the Nature Publishing Group released Nature Publishing Index 2010 China, remarking “a dramatic rise in the quality of research being published by China”. University of Science and Technology of China is ranked 3rd of TOP 10 Institutions in Index 2010 China.


This article came from News Center of USTC.