Light, vitamin D and psychiatry. Role of 1,25 dihydroxyvitamin D3 (soltriol) in etiology and therapy of seasonal affective disorder and other mental processes

Psychopharmacology (Berl). 1989;97(3):285-94. doi: 10.1007/BF00439440.


This is a review and a prospectus of effects of vitamin D on the brain. Effects of sunlight and equivalent artificial light on physiological and behavioral processes are probably mediated, in large part, through the skin-vitamin D-endocrine system. Experimental evidence from our laboratory reveals sites of action and concomitant direct effects of 1,25(OH)2 vitamin D3 (soltriol) on brain, spinal cord, pituitary and other endocrine tissues. This appears relevant for the activation and modulation of mental and endocrine processes, particularly related to seasonal and daily biorhythms. Effects of sunlight and corresponding artificial light are likely to be mediated through direct actions of soltriol on brain and endocrine tissues that are independent of its effect on calcium levels. Those direct actions are receptor mediated and appear to be dose related as they depend on intensity of light and length of exposure, considering light (photons) as a drug. A role for soltriol, the steroid hormone of sunlight, in the etiology and helio- or phototherapy of affective disorders with cyclic seasonal onset (seasonal affective disorder) is discussed and the significance of research in the new frontier of vitamin D and brain relationships is noted.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Calcitriol / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Light*
  • Mental Processes / drug effects*
  • Mood Disorders / drug therapy
  • Mood Disorders / therapy*


  • Calcitriol