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Where does the brain know that it's time to fall into seasonal depression?

But the victims of seasonal affective disorders in winter, too, synthesize melatonin for nine nights, and in the summer - less than eight and a half. This, in general, does not negate the main conclusion that those people whose internal hormonal rhythms are particularly sensitive to light fluctuations are prone to seasonal depression, but stresses that it is not a matter of concentration of melatonin per se, but rather of the fact of its level change. Distortions of the normal daily rhythm of melatonin secretion, by the way, occur not only in seasonal affective disorder, but also in other forms of depression, and in some cases even try to treat it with the help of an additional intake of this substance - with varying success, however.
If we talk not about depression in general, but about seasonal affective disorder, then yes, it is precisely associated with a change in the level of illumination, but the brain reacts to it not only through the synthesis of melatonin, but also with the help of a number of other biochemical pathways. The most important center for control of circadian rhythms (it is usually called a biological clock) is located in the suprachiasmatic nucleus of the hypothalamus. There works a real molecular pendulum: several proteins activate and suppress the synthesis of each other (and themselves) in such a way that their concentration in neurons changes cyclically during the day: one momentary combination corresponds to the dark time of the day, the other means that it is morning, again changing, and in the evening everything comes to the previous state, and the brain understands this in the spirit that it's night and it's time to sleep. This molecular machine performs a cycle approximately equal to the day, and it depends on the genetic characteristics of the individual whether these hours are prone to hurry or lag (this is what, apparently, owls and larks are determined) - but, in addition, the suprachiasmatic nucleus of the hypothalamus receives nerve impulses from retina and all the time twisting its internal clock, bringing them into line with the real solar rhythm (otherwise we could not change the time zones and adjust to the new day and night shift). Today, it is known that some genes involved in molecular clocks (for example Per2, Bmall, Npas2) are present in different people in different versions, and this genetic diversity makes it possible to predict with a high degree of certainty whether a given person is predisposed to seasonal depression. In any case, when comparing the DNA of people suffering and not suffering from seasonal affective disorder, it turns out that the frequency of occurrence of different variants of these genes in these two groups significantly varies.
Naturally, as with any other kind of depression, with seasonal affective disorder, there are changes in the activity of serotonin and dopamine, and some genetic differences associated with the work of these molecules in the brain have been found20. Against seasonal depression, respectively, help classical antidepressants, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. But the main method of treating seasonal affective disorder is the banal effect of bright light. People come to the medical office (usually in the morning, although there is research that evening light is also effective) and sit there for two hours near a bright bulb, specially created in such a way that its radiation simulates sunlight. The retina of the eye receives a signal that there is a lot of light, the nerve impulses are transmitted to the epiphysis, where melatonin is produced, and to the suprachiasmatic core, where molecular biological clocks work, and the brain decides that, judging by the intensity of the light, we still have spring here , and not autumn, so that depression can be suspended.
In this story about seasonal depression, it seems to me, it is important to understand that this is a real disease, the same as the flu or fracture of the radius. As with any disease, with the depression there are completely material changes, some molecules become larger, other molecules are smaller, the brain does not what does not want, but rather can not work as it should. Our beautiful subtle psyche is the product of the work of neurons, and if their biochemical state changes, so does the perception of the world and its place in it. Despite the fact that a full and comprehensive understanding of the mechanisms of seasonal depression still does not exist, it has already been sufficiently studied so that doctors can help with it. And so no one is obliged to suffer desperately every November - everyone has the right to go to the doctor and do something about it.
The present severe seasonal depression - such that it really creates a threat to a full life and work - happens only with those people who have a genetic predisposition to it, and even in the most terrible northern city it suffers less than 20% of the inhabitants. But the mild forms of seasonal affective disorder, such that do not stand up with a light bulb or even more with medications, but still reduce the mood, do not necessarily heroically endure without any struggle at all. It makes sense to remember that a bad mood in November is directly related to a lack of light, and consciously pay attention to the fact that there is more light. Ordinary light bulbs are not very similar to the sun, but they still allow you to deceive the retina a little, so in the autumn it makes sense to light all the lights in the room and screw in the chandelier the brightest lights that were found in the store. And most importantly - even the autumn sun is better than absolutely no sun, and therefore, if you suffer, you need to force yourself to go for a walk during the daytime. I understand that in November this time is too short and full of work, but the work will be done faster and more efficiently if the employees do not become depressed, and it is better to lose half an hour for a walk than half the working day for office procrastination. Incidentally, only in the United States of America, depressed employees cost employers $ 44 billion in lost profits a year-this figure has nothing to do with medical expenses, it's just a decline in labor productivity. People in depression tend to think slowly and can not concentrate on anything normally. Of course, we are talking about all the depressions, not just the mild form of seasonal affective disorder, but it also does not contribute to productive work. Therefore, if you are overcome by the autumn discouragement and you do not want anything, then rehabilitation should begin with the fact that you often go for walks, especially in sunny weather. This is not slovenliness, it is applied science.
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Where does the brain know that it's time to fall into seasonal depression?

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