Thomas A. Wehr's research while affiliated with National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and other places

Publications (222)

Article
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Many people are concerned about whether they are getting “enough” sleep, and if they can “sleep too much.” These concerns can be approached scientifically using experiments probing long-term (i.e., multi-night) sleep homeostatic processes, since homeostatic processes move the system toward its physiological setpoint (i.e., between “not enough” and...
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Recent longitudinal observations show that human menstrual cycles, sleep‐wake cycles and manic‐depressive cycles can become synchronized with lunar cycles, but do so in uniquely complex and heterogeneous ways that are unlikely to have been detected by past studies. Past studies’ negative results have given rise to a scientific consensus that human...
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Many species synchronize reproductive behavior with a particular phase of the lunar cycle to increase reproductive success. In humans, a lunar influence on reproductive behavior remains controversial, although the human menstrual cycle has a period close to that of the lunar cycle. Here, we analyzed long-term menstrual recordings of individual wome...
Article
According to a recent report, mood cycles in a group of patients with rapid cycling bipolar disorder oscillated in synchrony with lunar gravimetric tides. Mood switches in a 67-year-old woman with rapid cycling bipolar II disorder on lithium maintenance treatment were assessed with a χ periodogram and a χ analysis of the mood switches in relation t...
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In bipolar disorder, episodes of depression and mania are associated with dramatic disturbances in sleep, which experiments show are likely to contribute to the pathogenesis of the episodes. A recent finding that 18 patients’ manic-depressive cycles oscillated in synchrony with biweekly surges in amplitude of the moon’s tides provided a clue to the...
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Introduction The magnitude of nightly variability in sleep timing and duration in rested healthy people is unknown. This information is important for understanding insomnia and for short-term (within a wake episode) sleep homeostatic processes. Methods 15 healthy individuals participated in a previously reported protocol simulating long nights tha...
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In 17 patients with rapid cycling bipolar disorder, time-series analyses detected synchronies between mood cycles and three lunar cycles that modulate the amplitude of the moon’s semi-diurnal gravimetric tides: the 14.8-day spring–neap cycle, the 13.7-day declination cycle and the 206-day cycle of perigee-syzygies (‘supermoons’). The analyses also...
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Twenty-four hour sleep patterns were measured in six healthy male volunteers during a 90-minute short sleep-wake (SW 30:60) cycle protocol for 48 hours. Sleep pressure estimates (amount of Slow Wave Sleep [SWS], SWA, and Rate of Synchronization [RoS: the rate of SWA build-up at the beginning of the NREM period]) were compared with the 24-hour patte...
Article
A perimenopausal woman with seasonal affective disorder (SAD, winter depression) presented with a 2-year history of hot flashes occurring only in the wintertime. Prospectively documented hot flashes appeared to follow a seasonal rhythm and a bimodal circadian rhythm. The hot flashes decreased with morning, but not evening, light therapy. These obse...
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Behavioral changes in patients with seasonal affective disorder resemble seasonal changes in photoperiodic animals. Because the olfactory system has a modulatory role in seasonal photoperiodic responses in certain species, we hypothesized that olfactory function may differ between patients with seasonal affective disorder and healthy control subjec...
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Habitual sleep duration varies greatly among individuals. The physiological basis of this variation is unknown. We sought to determine whether individual differences in sleep duration are associated with systematic differences in the duration of the biological night that is programmed by the circadian pacemaker and reflected in the nocturnal interv...
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There is no agreement in the literature as to whether sleep interruption causes rapid eye movement (REM) pressure to increase, and if so, whether this increase is expressed as shortened REM latency, increased REM density, or increased duration of REM sleep. The purpose of the present study was to examine the effect of different durations of spontan...
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In animals, the circadian pacemaker regulates seasonal changes in behavior by transmitting a signal of day length to other sites in the organism. The signal is expressed reciprocally in the duration of nocturnal melatonin secretion, which is longer in winter than in summer. We investigated whether such a signal could mediate the effects of change o...
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We previously reported that delta wave activity and facial skin temperatures, an index of brain cooling activity, were both abnormal during sleep in patients with winter depression (SAD). Because other electroencephalographic (EEG) frequencies may also convey relevant thermal, homeostatic, and circadian information, we sought to spectrally analyze...
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1. Because individuals differ in the phase angle at which their circadian rhythms are entrained to external time cues, averaging group data relative to clock time sometimes obscures abrupt changes that are characteristic of waveforms of the rhythms in individuals. Such changes may have important implications for the temporal organization of human c...
Article
Most of the anatomical and molecular substrates of the system that encodes changes in photoperiod in the duration of melatonin secretion, and the receptor molecules that read this signal, have been shown to be conserved in monkeys and humans, and the functions of this system appear to be intact from the level of the retina to the level of the melat...
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The hypothesis is advanced that the circadian pacemaker in the mammalian suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) is composed at the molecular level of a nonredundant double complex of circadian genes (per1, cry1, and per2, cry2). Each one of these sets would be sufficient for the maintenance of endogenous rhythmicity and thus constitute an oscillator. Each w...
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Dynamics of electroencephalographic (EEG) slow wave activity (0.5-4.5 Hz) and body temperature, as estimates, respectively, of the process S and process C, regulating sleep and waking alternate occurrence, were measured during monophasic and biphasic sleep patterns that occurred spontaneously in a 35-year-old woman who lived for 105 days in a winte...
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We used the waking electroencephalogram to study the homeostatic sleep regulatory process in human short sleepers and long sleepers. After sleeping according to their habitual schedule, nine short sleepers (sleep duration < 6 h) and eight long sleepers (> 9 h) were recorded half-hourly during approximately 40 h of wakefulness in a constant routine...
Chapter
Among the many external changes to which organisms must adapt is the special class of changes that predictably recur in association with daily and seasonal cycles in the environment. In the course of their evolution, most forms of life have taken advantage of the predictability of these changes by developing temporal programs that trigger adaptive...
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There is a well described temporal relation between hormonal secretion and sleep phase, with hormones of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis possibly playing a role in determining entry into and duration of different sleep stages. In this study sleep features were studied in primary Addison's patients with undetectable levels of cortisol...
Article
The level of core body, and presumably brain temperature during sleep varies with clinical state in patients with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), becoming elevated during winter depression and lowered during clinical remission induced by either light treatment or summer. During sleep, brain temperatures are in part determined by the level of bra...
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The influence of the circadian pacemaker and of the duration of time awake on the electroencephalogram (EEG) was investigated in 19 humans during approximately 40 h of sustained wakefulness. Two circadian rhythms in spectral power density were educed. The first rhythm was centered in the theta band (4.25-8.0 Hz) and exhibited a minimum approximatel...
Article
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is characterized by recurrent episodes of depression in the fall and winter that alternate with nondepressed periods in the spring and summer. Because some symptoms of SAD, such as decreased energy and weight gain, also occur in hypothyroidism, it is possible that individuals with SAD have a subtle decrease in thyr...
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Background: Visual and olfactory pathways are interconnected. Olfactory deafferentation unmasks photoperiodic responsiveness in some nonphotoperiodic animals such as laboratory rats. By analogy, we hypothesized that olfactory deficits may unmask seasonal rhythms in certain individuals, namely those with seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Since pre...
Article
Winter depressions in seasonal affective disorder (SAD) are associated with central serotonergic (5-HT) dysfunction. SAD patients demonstrate rather specific, state-dependent, abnormal increases in 'activation-euphoria' ratings following intravenous infusion of the 5-HT receptor agonist meta-chlorophenylpiperazine (m-CPP). Several studies are also...
Article
Serotonin (5-HT) and its agonists alter the timing of the circadian pacemaker. Previous research has shown that when they are injected 4 h before or after the onset of wheel-running, they phase-advance or delay, respectively, the timing of the pacemaker. Because serotonergic interventions alter 5-HT receptor number in the hypothalamus, we asked whe...
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In patients with seasonal affective disorder, light treatment lowers core temperature during sleep in proportion to its antidepressant efficacy. The regulation of the level of core temperature during sleep is linked with a proportional control thermostat in the central nervous system whose operation appears abnormal in patients with seasonal affect...
Article
Certain antidepressant drugs (ADs) cause disturbances in sleep that could result from their capacity to alter the timing of circadian rhythms. Effects on the timing of rhythms could be due to the drugs' known capacity to alter the frequency of the intrinsic rhythm of the circadian pacemaker, or to a capacity to modify the pacemaker's response to ex...
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The modern practice of using artificial light to extend waking activities into the nighttime hours might be expected to precipitate or exacerbate bipolar illness, because it has been shown that modifying the timing and duration of sleep can induce mania in susceptible individuals. With this possibility in mind, we treated a patient with rapidly cyc...
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Benington and Heller (1994) recently proposed a sleep-dependent model for the homeostatic control of REM sleep in which the amount of REM sleep propensity discharged in each bout of REM sleep affects the timing of the subsequent REM episode. Consistent with their hypothesis, they reported that in rats the duration of a REM episode was positively co...
Article
The disruptive effects on the activity-rest cycle of the monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) clorgyline and of continuous light were examined in Syrian hamsters. When administered in dim and moderate light intensities, clorgyline delayed the daily onset of wheel-running. When administered in bright light, it dissociated the circadian rhythm of wheel...
Article
The circadian pacemaker imposes stereotypic patterns of daily variation on the activity of human neuroendocrine systems. In a number of cases, these patterns exhibit waveforms that are characterized by distinct diurnal and nocturnal periods with relatively discrete transitions between them (corresponding to a biological day, a biological dusk, a bi...
Article
The electroencephalogram (EEG) of nine healthy individuals was recorded at half-hourly intervals during approximately 40 h of sustained wakefulness in a constant routine protocol. EEG power density in the 0.75-9.0 Hz range exhibited a global increasing trend, and a local trough in the evening, centered approximately 6 h prior to the temperature min...
Article
The pineal hormone melatonin plays a ubiquitous role in biology as a chemical mediator of the effects of season on animal physiology and behavior. Seasonal changes in night length (scotoperiod) induce parallel changes in the duration of melatonin secretion (which occurs exclusively at night), so that it is longer in winter and shorter in summer. Th...
Article
The effects of chronic treatment with the monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI), clorgyline (CLG; 2 mg/kg per day) on serotonin (5HT) and vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP) immunoreactivity (IR) within the hamster suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) were examined. Optical densities of 5HT IR and VIP IR were increased by MAOI treatment. VIP IR was increased...
Article
The possible role of gonadal steroids in regulating sleep and circadian rhythms in humans has received relatively little attention despite the importance of the topic to several clinical syndromes. Pharmacologically induced hypogonadism, with and without gonadal steroid replacement, provides an opportunity to examine these questions within a contro...
Article
The ready availability of exogenous melatonin means that its use in patients with mood disorders is probably not uncommon. Nonetheless, few controlled trials of exogenous melatonin in these patients have been conducted. Five patients with rapid-cycling DSM-III-R bipolar disorder were treated with melatonin 10 mg q.d. at 10:00 p.m. for 12 weeks. Mel...
Article
Pituitary volume in humans has been reported to change size in response to experimental manipulations of photoperiod, and to be increased during an episode of non-seasonal major depression. We wanted to determine whether pituitary volume changes either across the seasons or during an episode of winter depression. Nineteen patients with winter-seaso...
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Nocturnal core temperature during sleep is elevated during depression compared with remission in nonseasonally depressed patients. Similarly, nocturnal core temperature is higher during winter depression compared with remission induced by light treatment in seasonal affective disorder (SAD) patients. We investigated whether nocturnal core temperatu...
Article
Multiple lines of evidence suggest that brain serotonergic systems may be disturbed in seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Previously, we found that the serotonergic agent meta-chlorophenylpiperazine (m-CPP) produced increases in activation and euphoria in depressed patients with SAD, but not in patients with SAD following light treatment or in the...
Article
We evaluated a 37-year-old male with a non-24-h sleep-wake disorder. His environment gave him little exposure to bright light. Circadian profiles of temperature, melatonin, thyrotropin, cortisol and testosterone were obtained along with endocrine challenges of the thyroid, adrenal, growth hormone and gonadal axes. Multiple endocrine abnormalities w...
Article
This chapter presents the evidence that the human circadian pacemaker also creates a biological day and night within the organism, with abrupt dusk- and dawn-like transitions between them, and that the human pacemaker can detect the seasonal changes in the length of the solar day and make corresponding changes in the lengths of the biological day a...
Article
A number of researchers have suggested that the phase (timing) of circadian rhythms in depressed patients is abnormal. Longitudinal studies could help to elucidate the relationship between circadian phase and mood. Such studies would be facilitated by the development of a noninvasive method for measuring circadian phase. In normal volunteers, the c...
Article
The purpose of this study was to characterize the long-term course of patients with seasonal affective disorder. The first 59 patients with winter seasonal affective disorder who had entered winter protocols were retrospectively followed up after a mean interval of 8.8 years. Detailed life charts were constructed through use of a semistructured int...
Article
The relationship between sleep and mood was examined in a longitudinal, naturalistic data set derived from out-patients with rapid-cycling bipolar disorder. Eleven patients completed daily self-ratings of mood and sleep logs for 18 months. Using logistic regression with autoregressive terms, we examined the effect of prior sleep (sleep duration, ti...
Article
Meta-chlorophenylpiperazine (m-CPP), a probe of central serotonergic function, elevates core temperature in rodents, nonhuman primates, and humans via serotonin receptor-mediated mechanisms. To further characterize the thermoregulatory aspects of this response, we studied 16 healthy volunteers using multiple core and skin temperature recording site...
Article
Full-text available
Meta-chlorophenylpiperazine (m-CPP), a probe of central serotonergic function, elevates core temperature in rodents, nonhuman primates, and humans via serotonin receptor-mediated mechanisms. To further characterize the thermoregulatory aspects of this response, we studied 16 healthy volunteers using multiple core and skin temperature recording site...
Article
We recently reported that humans have conserved mechanisms, like those that exist in other animals, which detect changes in day length and make corresponding adjustments in the duration of nocturnal periods of secretion of melatonin and of other functions. We detected these responses in individuals who were exposed to artificial "days" of different...
Article
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In many animals, changes in duration of nocturnal melatonin secretion chemically mediate effects of seasonal changes in nightlength on behavior and physiology. According to one model, the changes in duration of secretion result from adjustments in the timing of two circadian oscillators, one entrained to dusk, controlling onset, and another entrain...
Article
Many of the dramatic seasonal changes that occur in animals are triggered by changes in the length of night. Changes in the duration of melatonin secretion, which usually occurs exclusively at night and therefore lasts longer in winter than in summer, often act as a chemical transducer of the effects of seasonal changes in night-length on animals'...
Article
Antidepressant drugs have been reported to alter the circadian pattern of body temperature, but specific effects on the amplitude or on average body temperature are not consistent, and there have been no specific studies to examine chronic drug effects on brain temperature. To address these issues, hypothalamic temperature (Thy) was monitored telem...
Article
Nine patients with rapid cycling bipolar disorder were treated with a total of 13 trials of bright light therapy in the morning (n = 5), evening (n = 3), or midday (n = 5). In each instance, the patient&apos;s mood ratings during 3 months of light therapy (added to a stable medication regimen) were compared to his or her mood ratings during 3 month...
Article
To test the hypothesis that cyanocobalamin (vitamin B12) is an effective treatment for winter seasonal affective disorder (SAD). 2 weeks of double-blind placebo washout, followed by random assignment to parallel treatments for 2 weeks with cyanocobalamin vs. placebo. Observations were made during weekly outpatient visits. All subjects met criteria...
Article
The objectives of this study were to test the hypothesis that a dopaminergic deficiency plays a role in the pathogenesis of winter seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and to test the efficacy of levodopa plus carbidopa as a treatment for SAD. Two weeks of double-blind placebo washout were followed by random assignment to parallel treatments for 2 wee...
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Disturbances of sleep are a hallmark of seasonal affective disorders (SAD), as they are of other mood disorders. Fall/winter SAD patients most often report hypersomnia. Among responses of 293 SAD patients on a symptom questionnaire, complaints of winter hypersomnia (80%) greatly exceeded insomnia (10%), hypersomnia plus insomnia (5%), or no sleep d...
Article
We previously reported a high degree of seasonality as measured by the Seasonal Pattern Assessment Questionnaire (SPAQ) in 41 patients with eating disorders (ED) compared with control subjects and patients with five other affective spectrum disorders. To clarify the relationship of the specific ED diagnosis and latitude to seasonal variation in a l...
Article
The sleep patterns of 8 normal subjects living in a winter-type photoperiod (10 h light and 14 h darkness; LD 10:14) for 4 weeks were characterized by the presence of periods of spontaneous wakefulness alternating with periods of spontaneous sleep. Transitions from sleep to wakefulness occurred much more frequently out of REM sleep than out of NREM...
Article
In Syrian hamsters, chronic administration of the type A monoamine oxidase inhibitor, clorgyline (CLG), alters the intrinsic period and daily pattern of the circadian rhythm of wheel running, and changes the intensity-response curve for phase-shifting of the rhythm by light pulses. Chronic treatment with CLG also decreases hypothalamic and peritone...
Article
In animals, circadian pacemakers respond to seasonal changes in day length by making corresponding adjustments in the durations of diurnal and nocturnal periods of circadian rhythms; these adjustments mediate effects of photoperiod on breeding and other seasonally recurring phenomena. Little is known about photoperiod responses of human circadian p...
Article
In the conclusion to their article on rapidly cycling affective disorder, Coryell et al1 state that "knowledge of those factors that predispose to this condition or that prolong it would have substantial clinical importance." In this regard, it is worth noting evidence that tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) or other antidepressants may trigger rapid...
Article
The literature suggests that sleep deprivation can potentiate the effect of antidepressant medication in depressed patients. However, the clinical efficacy of sleep deprivation has not been demonstrated definitively, in part because it is difficult to design an adequate control condition. We conducted a trial of sleep deprivation in 26 depressed pa...
Article
Fifty-five patients with winter seasonal affective disorder (SAD) were treated with a light visor, a newly developed portable light-delivery system, in a controlled parallel design. A dim (400 lux) visor was compared with a bright (6000 lux) visor for either 30 or 60 minutes in the morning for 1 week. Response rates for these two treatments were 36...
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To understand how and why sleep deprivation is physically harmful, we explored the possible causal relationship between its two main effects, 1) negative energy balance and 2) a composite of symptoms that resemble protein malnutrition, both of which occur despite increased food consumption. We provided balanced diets augmented with either protein o...
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Positron emission tomography scans of nine patients diagnosed with summer seasonal affective disorder (SSAD) were compared with scans of 45 normal control subjects to investigate differences in brain glucose metabolism. All subjects performed an auditory discrimination task beginning several minutes before injection of F-18-deoxyglucose and continu...
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We used three rating scales to study diurnal variation of mood in 37 patients with major depressive disorder (17 drug-free patients and 20 treatment refractory patients on stable regimens of antidepressant medication). The three rating scales included global self-ratings administered twice a day; an itemized, prospective, observer-rated scale admin...
Article
The risk for depression increases at two opposite times of the year--late spring/early summer and late fall/early winter. In 15% of patients with recurrent major depression, depressive episodes regularly recur on an annual basis in one of the two seasonal risk periods. Thus, there are primarily two forms of seasonal affective disorder: recurrent fa...
Article
Results of a photoperiod experiment show that human sleep can be unconsolidated and polyphasic, like the sleep of other animals. When normal individuals were transferred from a conventional 16-h photoperiod to an experimental 10-h photo-period, their sleep episodes expanded and usually divided into two symmetrical bouts, several hours in duration,...
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The authors critically reviewed the literature on clinical applications of sleep deprivation in the treatment of depression. They included all studies using sleep deprivation for clinical purposes, with the exception of treatment studies that did not provide follow-up beyond a night of recovery sleep. They focused on six uses of sleep deprivation:...
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We examined data from 44 women with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) to determine whether any demographic, diagnostic, or symptomatic characteristics would be predictive of a favorable response to phototherapy. Preexistent hypersomnia was particularly associated with lessening of depression after phototherapy. In contrast to a report elsewhere, bo...
Article
Disturbances of the sleep-wake cycle are frequently seen in affective illness and are exhibited in other psychiatric illness as well. In addition to being a useful research probe, manipulations of the sleep-wake cycle such as sleep deprivation (SD) and phase advance can cause depression to remit and thus can be used as alternative or as adjunctive...