A new brain study reveals that the circadian clocks of people with depression are altered at the cellular level.
Every cell in our bodies runs on a 24-hour clock, tuned to the night-day, light-dark cycles that have ruled us since the dawn of humanity. The brain acts as timekeeper, keeping the cellular clock in sync with the outside world so that it can govern our appetites, sleep, moods, and much more.
But new research shows that the clock may be broken in the brains of people with depression—even at the level of the gene activity inside their brain cells.
“There really was a moment of discovery,” says Li,a research assistant professor in the department of computational medicine and bioinformatics at the University of Michigan. “It was when we realized that many of the genes that show 24-hour cycles in the normal individuals were well-known circadian rhythm genes—and when we saw that the people with depression were not synchronized to the usual solar day in terms of this gene activity. It’s as if they were living in a different time zone than the one they died in.”
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