Chaotic solar cycles modulate the incidence and severity of mental illness

Med Hypotheses. 2004;62(2):207-14. doi: 10.1016/j.mehy.2003.11.006.


This paper hypothesizes that the intensity of ultraviolet radiation (UVR) from the Sun predisposes humans to polygenic mutation fostering major mental illness (MMI) and other disorders of neurodevelopment. In addition, the variation in the intensity of this radiation acts to stress immune systems, possibly mediated by cytokines, resulting in variable clinical expressions of mental illness and autoimmune disorders. Organisms can adapt to chronic high-intensity UVR by producing melanin and by retaining various pigments. We found that 28% of 11-year solar cycles produce particularly severe solar flares during which UVR is 300% more intense and hence more damaging than normal. Out of a total of six severe cycles in the past 250 years, four have occurred in the past 55 years, possibly explaining the apparent increase in the incidence of MMI in recent decades. UVR is 10 times more mutagenic than ionizing radiation to nuclear DNA, and especially damaging to mitochondrial DNA. However, variable light as manifested by seasons stresses adaptability to UVR, possibly through an immune mechanism. We show that the region of the Earth having the most UVR, relative to the most variation in that light, is at 54 +/-10 degrees (N or S) latitude. Therefore, the most potential damage from sunlight occurs between the Equator and the Poles, not at the Equator itself. The human brain, our most important organ of adaptability, must be able to survive environmental variation, with successful matching to the environment resulting in adaptation. Unsuccessful adaptation to UVR (and possibly other types of radiation) results in mutation, which can produce neuro-chemical abnormalities manifested by MMI. We postulate that the combination of intensity and variation in UVR serves as a global modulator of MMI.

MeSH terms

  • Causality
  • Comorbidity
  • Environmental Exposure / statistics & numerical data*
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Geography / methods
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Mental Disorders / classification
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Radiation Injuries / classification
  • Radiation Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Risk Assessment / methods
  • Risk Factors
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Solar Activity*
  • Solar Energy / statistics & numerical data*
  • Ultraviolet Rays*
  • United States / epidemiology