Melatonin sensitivity to dim white light in affective disorders

Neuropsychopharmacology. 1999 Sep;21(3):408-13. doi: 10.1016/S0893-133X(99)00018-4.


Both dim and bright light has been shown to suppress the nocturnal secretion of the pineal hormone melatonin. Early reports suggests that an abnormal response to light occurs in patients with bipolar affective disorder, where as patients with major depressive disorder respond similarly to controls. It has been suggested that this abnormal sensitivity of the melatonin response to light could be a trait marker of bipolar affective disorder. However reports lack consistency. Hence, we investigated the melatonin suppression by dim light (200 lux) in patients with bipolar affective disorder, seasonal affective disorder and major depressive disorder. Results suggest that a supersensitive melatonin suppression to light in bipolar affective disorder (p < .005), and seasonal affective disorder (p < .05), whereas patients with major depressive disorder display similar suppression to controls. The supersensitivity may be a mechanism where by phase-delayed rhythms, are resynchronised to a new circadian position. Conversely, an abnormality may exist in the pathway from the retina to the suprachiamatic nucleus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Bipolar Disorder / blood*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / blood*
  • Humans
  • Light*
  • Melatonin / blood*
  • Middle Aged
  • Mood Disorders / blood
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder / blood*


  • Biomarkers
  • Melatonin