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The Antidepressant Effect of Light Therapy from Retinal Projections

Abstract

Observations from clinical trials have frequently demonstrated that light therapy can be an effective therapy for seasonal and non-seasonal major depression. Despite the fact that light therapy is known to have several advantages over antidepressant drugs like a low cost, minimal side-effects, and fast onset of therapeutic effect, the mechanism underlying light therapy remains unclear. So far, it is known that light therapy modulates mood states and cognitive functions, involving circadian and non-circadian pathways from retinas into brain. In this review, we discuss the therapeutic effect of light on major depression and its relationship to direct retinal projections in the brain. We finally emphasize the function of the retino-raphe projection in modulating serotonin activity, which probably underlies the antidepressant effect of light therapy for depression.

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Acknowledgements

This review was supported by grants from the Commission on Innovation and Technology in Shenzhen Municipality of China (JCYJ20150630114942262), the Postdoctoral Science Foundation of China (2015M582440), International Postdoctoral Exchange Fellowship Program 2016 by the Office of China Postdoctoral Council (20160021), and the National Key R&D Program of China (2017YFC1310503).

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Li, X., Li, X. The Antidepressant Effect of Light Therapy from Retinal Projections. Neurosci. Bull. 34, 359–368 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12264-018-0210-1

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s12264-018-0210-1

Keywords

  • Light therapy
  • Depression
  • Retinal projection
  • Serotonin
  • Opsin