Circadian rhythms in depression and recovery: evidence for blunted amplitude as the main chronobiological abnormality

Psychiatry Res. 1989 Jun;28(3):263-78. doi: 10.1016/0165-1781(89)90207-2.


Circadian rhythms of body temperature, plasma cortisol, norepinephrine (NE), thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), and melatonin were compared in 16 endogenously depressed, 15 recovered (after 3 weeks of anti-depressant treatment), and 16 normal subjects. The depressed patients showed clear circadian rhythm abnormalities, consisting mainly in amplitude reduction. This amplitude reduction was significantly correlated with the patients' Hamilton depression scores. Normal circadian profiles were restored after recovery when amplitude, in particular, was increased. Features of the circadian rhythms observed in remission may be associated with antidepressant drug effects, whereas those observed in depression resemble the circadian rhythms observed in normal subjects living under conditions of temporal isolation and those of blind subjects. Our findings suggest that depression may be related both to a weakening of the coupling processes between internal pacemakers and to an abnormal sensitivity to environmental information.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Amitriptyline / therapeutic use
  • Body Temperature Regulation* / drug effects
  • Circadian Rhythm* / drug effects
  • Depressive Disorder / drug therapy
  • Depressive Disorder / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / blood*
  • Imipramine / therapeutic use
  • Lithium / therapeutic use
  • Male
  • Melatonin / blood*
  • Middle Aged
  • Norepinephrine / blood*
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Sleep Stages / physiology
  • Thyrotropin / blood*
  • Wakefulness / physiology


  • Amitriptyline
  • Thyrotropin
  • Lithium
  • Melatonin
  • Imipramine
  • Hydrocortisone
  • Norepinephrine