Antidepressant and circadian phase-shifting effects of light

Science. 1987 Jan 16;235(4786):352-4. doi: 10.1126/science.3798117.


Bright light can suppress nighttime melatonin production in humans, but ordinary indoor light does not have this effect. This finding suggested that bright light may have other chronobiologic effects in humans as well. Eight patients who regularly became depressed in the winter (as day length shortens) significantly improved after 1 week of exposure to bright light in the morning (but not after 1 week of bright light in the evening). The antidepressant response to morning light was accompanied by an advance (shift to an earlier time) in the onset of nighttime melatonin production. These results suggest that timing may be critical for the antidepressant effects of bright light.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Circadian Rhythm / radiation effects*
  • Depression / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Light
  • Melatonin / blood*


  • Melatonin