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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Nocturnal melatonin secretion in multiple sclerosis patients with affective disorders.

The pineal gland has been implicated recently in the pathogenesis of multiple sclerosis ( MS), a chronic demyelinating disease of CNS. Since nocturnal melatonin secretion is low in some groups of patients with mental depression, we predicted lower melatonin secretion in MS patients with history of affective illness compared to those without psychiatric disorders. To test this hypothesis, we studied single nocturnal plasma melatonin levels and the incidence of pineal calcification (PC) on CT scan in a cohort of 25 MS patients (4 men, 21 women; mean age = 39.4 years, SD = 9.3), 15 of whom had a history of coexisting psychiatric disorders with predominant affective symptomatology. Other factors that may be related to depression such as vitamin B12, folic acid, zinc, magnesium, and homocysteine, were also included in the analysis. Neither any of the metabolic factors surveyed nor the incidence of PC distinguished the psychiatric from the control group. However, the mean melatonin level in the psychiatric patients was significantly lower than in the control group. Since low melatonin secretion in patients with depression may be related to a phase-advance of the circadian oscillator regulating the offset of melatonin secretion, we propose that the depression of MS likewise may reflect the presence of dampened circadian oscillators. Furthermore, since exacerbation of motor symptoms in MS patients may be temporally related to worsening of depression, we propose that circadian phase lability may also underlie the relapsing-remitting course of the disease. Consequently, pharmacological agents such as lithium or bright light therapy, which have been shown to phase-delay circadian rhythms, might be effective in the treatment of affective symptoms in MS as well as preventing motor exacerbation and hastening a remission from an acute attack.[1]


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