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Abnormal dose-response melatonin suppression by light in bipolar type I patients compared with healthy adult subjects

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 June 2014

Karen T. Hallam*
Department of Psychiatry, University of Melbourne, Austin Hospital, Heidelberg, Victoria, Australia Department of Clinical and Biomedical Sciences, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria, Australia
Denovan P. Begg
Department of Psychiatry, University of Melbourne, Austin Hospital, Heidelberg, Victoria, Australia School of Psychology, La Trobe University, Bundoora, Victoria, Australia
James S. Olver
Department of Psychiatry, University of Melbourne, Austin Hospital, Heidelberg, Victoria, Australia
Trevor R. Norman
Department of Psychiatry, University of Melbourne, Austin Hospital, Heidelberg, Victoria, Australia
K. T. Hallam, Department of Psychiatry, The University of Melbourne, Level 10 Lance Townsend Building, Austin Health, Heidelberg, 3084, Victoria, Australia. Tel: +61 (03) 9496-6407; Fax: +61 (03) 9496-4366; E-mail:



Among potential endophenotypes proposed for bipolar affective disorder focusing on circadian abnormalities associated with the illness has particularly high face validity. Melatonin sensitivity to light is one circadian endophenotype proposed as useful in bipolar disorder. The aim of this study was to investigate melatonin sensitivity to light over a range of light intensities in order to compare and contrast responses in bipolar I patients with those of healthy adult volunteers.


The study included seven patients (4 females, 3 males) with bipolar I disorder and 34 control participants (22 females, 12 males) with no personal or family history of affective illness. Melatonin sensitivity to light was determined in all patients and participants across a range of light intensities (0, 200, 500 and 1000 lux).


The results indicated that patients showed melatonin super-sensitivity to light in comparison with controls, a response that was consistent across the entire light intensity range investigated.


The study provides further evidence for a super sensitive response in bipolar I patients and suggests that its potential usefulness as an endophenotypic marker of the illness is deserving of further research.

Research Article
Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons A/S

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