Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto, Canada.
Dialogues Clin Neurosci. 2007;9(3):315-24.
This review summarizes research on the chronobiology and neurobiology of winter seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a recurrent subtype of depression characterized by a predictable onset in the fall/winter months and spontaneous remission in the spring/summer period. Chronobiological mechanisms related to circadian rhythms, melatonin, and photoperiodism play a significant role in many cases of SAD, and treatment of SAD can be optimized by considering individual differences in key chronobiological markers.
Converging evidence also points to a role for the major monoamine neurotransmitters serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine in one or more aspects of SAD. Ultimately, as with other psychiatric illnesses, SAD is best considered as a complex disorder resulting from the interaction of several vulnerability factors acting at different levels, the various genetic mechanisms that underlie them, and the physical environment. Models of SAD that emphasize its potential role in human evolution will also be discussed.