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Serum concentrations of thyroid hormones in patients with nonseasonal affective disorders during treatment with bright and dim light

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      Serum concentrations of thyroxine (T4), triiodothyronine (T3), and thyrotropine were measured in 34 patients with nonseasonal affective disorders before and after 1 week of light treatment. Nineteen of these patients received bright white light (2500 lx) and 15 dim red light (50 lx) for 2 hours daily in the mornings over a 1-week period. Slight but significant reductions in the rating scores for the depressive symptomatology were found for both the bright- and dim-light groups, but there were no significant differences between the two groups. The improvement is thus most likely a placebo effect. Surprisingly, the small changes in the severity of the depressive symptoms in the group as a whole were significantly correlated to the changes in the serum levels of T4 during the weeks of bright- and dim-light treatment, respectively. The more a patient improved, the further his or her T4 level fell and vice versa. The fluctuations in the concentrations of T4 during light treatment were significantly greater in the depressed patients than in a group of 12 healthy controls who also received bright or dim light, whereas the changes in T3 were significantly smaller than those of the healthy controls. The pronounced fluctuations in T4 levels were probably not secondary to changes in mood. Rather, they are likely to reflect changes in tissue (intracellular) metabolism of T4, which may be involved in the mechanisms underlying the fluctuations in mood in these patients.

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