Do you suffer with winter depression? Your brain knows why.
Have you ever experienced, that your mood started to change when winter was approaching? Some sort of “winter blues”? Scientist recently found out biological cause, that can explain why you developed seasonal affective disorder connected with winter.
It might sound weird, but Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is real problem. Many people suffer with this and it certainly cannot be underestimated. Scientists from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark made discovery, which can help to understand why some people are more affected with SAD than the others.
Our brain is answer to almost everything what is happening in our body. With SAD, there is no difference either. Scans of brain revealed, that people, who developed this issue have less access to serotonin. Serotonin is brain signaling compound associated with feelings of wellbeing and happiness, when the days started to get shorter. Reason why this is happening is because their brain increased production of a transporter protein called serotonin transporter (SERT). SERT transports serotonin into the nerve cells where it’s not active.
Lead researcher, neurobiologist at the University of Copenhagen Brenda Mc Mahon, said for BBC: “We believe, that we have found the dial brain turn when it has to adjust serotonin to the changing seasons. The serotonin transporter (SERT) carries serotonin back into the nerve cells where it is not active. That means, if the SERT activity is higher, the activity of serotonin will be lower.”
34 people volunteered to take part in this research – 11 people with SAD and 23 healthy individuals in both summer and winter in order to examine the differences in their brains. Researchers performed positron emission tomography (PET), after which they found out, that the volunteers with SAD had more SERT in their brains in winter compared to healthy volunteers. However, in summer, both of the groups had very similar results.
For a while, scientists have been suspecting, that SERT movements are, in fact, responsible for SAD, but this is the first study to show clear difference between the levels in brain in summer and winter. The results were presented at the annual congress of the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology.
What you have to keep in mind is that even that the results are pretty exciting, this was still a small-scale study and researchers still have a long way to go until it will be fully confirmed. Their next focus will be on why some people increase SERT production in winter and some people are unaffected. It is alarming, that SAD affects more than 12 million people across northern Europe. Are you one of them?
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