Research Article| Volume 21, ISSUE 2, P141-150, February 1986

Plasma melatonin—An index of brain aging in humans?

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      We investigated the age-related changes in the arcadian rhythm of plasma melatonin as a potential index of brain aging in man. The subjects were 5 young men aged 19–25 years, 11 older men aged 51–65 years, 6 elderly men aged 66–89 years, 7 young women aged 19–25 years, 5 premenopausal women aged 45–50 years, 8 postmenopausal women aged 51–65 years, and 5 elderly women aged 66–75 years. They were all physically and psychiatrically normal. Serial blood samples were drawn from 8:00 am until 8:00 am on the next day, with the indoor illumination set at 300 Lux from 7:00 am until 4:00 pm and at 50 Lux thereafter. Plasma melatonin was estimated by radioimmunoassay. The results show that there is a significant negative correlation between age and 24-hr secretion of plasma melatonin (r = −0.952, p < 0.0001), between age and peak levels of plasma melatonin (r = −0.937, p < 0.00001 ), and between age and the lag in time from sunset to the onset of significant elevation of plasma melatonin over daytime values (r = 0.916, p < 0.0001 ). It is concluded that study of the circadian rhythm of plasma melatonin may prove to be a useful index of the aging process.
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