Affective disorders such as major depression, bipolar disorder, and seasonal affective disorder are associated with major disruptions in circadian rhythms. Indeed, altered sleep/wake cycles are a critical feature for diagnosis in the DSM IV and several of the therapies used to treat these disorders have profound effects on rhythm length and stabilization in human populations. Furthermore, multiple human genetic studies have identified polymorphisms in specific circadian genes associated with these disorders. Thus, there appears to be a strong association between the circadian system and mood regulation, although the mechanisms that underlie this association are unclear. Recently, a number of studies in animal models have begun to shed light on the complex interactions between circadian genes and mood-related neurotransmitter systems, the effects of light manipulation on brain circuitry, the impact of chronic stress on rhythms, and the ways in which antidepressant and mood-stabilizing drugs alter the clock. This review will focus on the recent advances that have been gleaned from the use of pre-clinical models to further our understanding of how the circadian system regulates mood.
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