Chronic exposure to ELF fields may induce depression

Bioelectromagnetics. 1988;9(2):195-205. doi: 10.1002/bem.2250090211.


Exposure to extremely-low-frequency (ELF) electric or magnetic fields has been postulated as a potentially contributing factor in depression. Epidemiologic studies have yielded positive correlations between magnetic- and/or electric-field strengths in local environments and the incidence of depression-related suicide. Chronic exposure to ELF electric or magnetic fields can disrupt normal circadian rhythms in rat pineal serotonin-N-acetyltransferase activity as well as in serotonin and melatonin concentrations. Such disruptions in the circadian rhythmicity of pineal melatonin secretion have been associated with certain depressive disorders in human beings. In the rat, ELF fields may interfere with tonic aspects of neuronal input to the pineal gland, giving rise to what may be termed "functional pinealectomy." If long-term exposure to ELF fields causes pineal dysfunction in human beings as it does in the rat, such dysfunction may contribute to the onset of depression or may exacerbate existing depressive disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Circadian Rhythm / radiation effects
  • Depression / etiology*
  • Electromagnetic Fields / adverse effects*
  • Electromagnetic Phenomena / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Melatonin / biosynthesis
  • Pineal Gland / physiology
  • Pineal Gland / radiation effects


  • Melatonin