Is there a connection between Season of Birth and Depression?

Jaanki-Radha Patel

Lay Abstract

There have been lots of studies conducted to find causes for, and reasons behind depression, and why it affects so many people around the world. One suggestible cause is season of labor and birth. Some studies have shown that the surroundings make a difference one's threat of expanding depression, as humans grow a good deal throughout their first time of life, and the environment varies greatly with regards to the season. This literature review will collect collectively these studies, discuss their conclusions and analyse their dependability in order to discern the possibility of a link.

Scientific Abstract


Mental disorder has increasingly become a more prominent facet of health before decade, and with this, investigative research into its roots and triggers has surged. A single consideration of the is season of beginning, as it's been recorded lots of times that varying factors, both during pregnancy, and postnatally, have significant effects upon the brain, in both framework and function.

Depression is known as the world's major leading reason behind disability, affecting 350 million people worldwide. [1] This, in itself, will do reason to consider research into the triggers behind depression as greatly important to both remedies and world. Further research into mental health and its causation provides better treatment to patients, as well as enhancing and increasing knowing of the devastating ramifications of depression worldwide.

Whilst there are range of theories surrounding the sources of depression, it is becoming evident that no single factor is actually causative; furthermore, a correlation does not actually determine causation.

This books review will discuss season of labor and birth and the palm it may play in mental condition, and more specifically, depression. Studies over the years have suggested a romance between a labor and birth in the autumn and winter season with an elevated risk of expanding mental illness, especially in people that have a genetic predisposition. These studies may also be appraised in relation to their method of research, and the relative accuracy and trustworthiness of these results; thus providing us with a far more conclusive view on how season of beginning could connect to depression.

There are a number of recommendations of how season of delivery could affect one's health, a few of which are more established within the scientific community; as exemplory case of such is that of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD is defined as recurring episodes of major depression during certain times of the year, more specifically, in winter. The pathological mechanisms behind SAD are thought to be changes in exposure to light; this idea is fortified by the resounding success of light remedy, which includes been the focus of seasonal affective disorder treatment since the 1980s. [2]-[3]

Research has found that patients with seasonal affective disorder were more often blessed in the autumn or winter, and less often in the springtime or summer, compared with atypical depression. It had been therefore concluded that when hereditary factors were accounted for, season of birth could play a role in the introduction of SAD. However, more research was necessary to observe the primary mechanisms because of this correlation.

Further analysis into season of labor and birth and its own potential romantic relationship with mental health has since been performed, and there are numerous suggestions as to how season of labor and birth can affect coverage of light, an infection and nutrients to a expanding foetus, and a new baby child. These studies have found a relationship between changes in contact with environmental factors to specific diseases such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. In fact, it was discovered that risk of developing schizophrenia or bipolar affective disorder later in life followed a seasonal distribution; hence directing towards an environmental factor to be possibly causative in disease.

Vitamin D

As the seasons change, the weather when a foetus or youngster evolves, also changes; there are modifications in diet, sunlight, and infections. Researchers also found data that suggests that vitamin D insufficiency could be causative in the development of psychiatric conditions.

Vitamin D has previously shown itself as pivotal in healthy neurodevelopment of the foetus. [4] The role of supplement D was only found to have a significant effect on the chance of schizophrenia; whilst links were found to bipolar affective disorder, they were much less significant, plus some factors, such as increasing latitude, [5] are believed to have much a much better impact upon the chance of producing psychiatric conditions. [6]

Nevertheless, as supplement D is crucial in healthy neurodevelopment, it is of note that patients with mental illnesses are proven to have differences in brain structure, more specifically, structural distinctions in the left superior temporal gyrus. [7] The versions in brain development and composition were observed to possess produced marked distinctions in personality attributes and neurobehavioural disorders. An example of this was that males blessed in the fall months and winter exhibited a larger level of the superior temporal gyrus; this area of the brain contains the auditory cortex, accountable for interpretation of human being language and interpersonal interactions. [8] It really is fundamentally through the consequences of both hereditary appearance environmental factors, such as perinatal photoperiod, that there are morphological variations in this area, resulting in differences in social connections and behaviour. [9]

It is through these studies that the following question develops; could treatment of vitamin supplements D deficit during gestation, and during the first couple of years of life have a substantial enough effect after neurodevelopment, in order to avoid the acquisition of psychiatric conditions?

Neurodevelopmental Effects

There a wide range of ways in which cranial structure varies therefore of season of birth. Several studies have shown changes in brain composition linked to season of delivery, with visible dissimilarities seen on MRI. 9 There are also lots of changes to the brain on a physiological level.

Patients with depression have been found to possess reduced quantities of the hippocampus and amygdala, as well as changes in brain physiology; more extreme replies to the stress hormone, cortisol, and upregulation of the HPA axis.

It is generally established that patients with psychiatric conditions have variants in brain composition relative to the normal inhabitants, most characterised by the HPA axis, a opinions interaction between the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and the adrenal cortex.


This interaction is set up through the discharge of corticotropic-releasing-hormone (CRH), into the bloodstream of portal flow by the parvocellular neurosecretory neurones in the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus. In response to the, adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) is released by the anterior pituitary gland. This results in an high release of glucocorticoids (cortisol) into the bloodstream. The increased concentrations of cortisol results a release of proinflammatory cytokines in the brain, and dysregulation of the amygdala.

The dysregulation of the HPA axis frequently is a result of stress, which can be defined as any environmental factor that induces stress on the body. Such tensions range from imbalances in nutrition or contact with infection, both which could impact the growing foetus or neonate in a serious way. As patients born in the autumn and winter are found with an increase in contact with infection, reduced contact with sunlight (in the northern hemisphere) and a poorer diet in accordance with those given birth to in the warmer calendar months, a connection between season of labor and birth and the increased activity of the HPA axis, and by proxy, depression, becomes evident.

The hippocampus and amygdala, two crucial parts of the mind, are the different parts of the limbic system, accountable for emotions and social interactions. It is through their reduced quantities that emotions such as despair and problems continue to be unregulated, fundamentally leading to depression. Could it be assumed that the reduced level of these parts of the mind are a rsulting consequence a lack of neuroplasticity in patients with depression, as it is disrupted. It really is through this that the hippocampus and amygdala are markedly smaller in patients with depression than the standard population.

Neuroplasticity allows 'pruning' of synaptic cable connections that are used less often, and the strengthening of connections used frequently. It is thought that under stress, an individual with depression fails to make these adaptations to stressful stimuli, and instead, cell atrophy occurs - the reduction or shrinkage in cell size; producing a reduced volume of the hippocampus and amygdala. It really is through this that the hippocampus and amygdala are markedly smaller in patients with depression than the standard population, thus preventing any restoration, as negative thoughts begin to dominate the psyche.

The changes in brain structure have multiple causes; it has been discovered that patients with a lower life expectancy level of the hippocampus and amygdala have so due to altered behavioural appearance of dopaminergic connections. Because of the existence of proinflammatory cytokines, there is an increase in the experience of the monoamine oxidase enzyme (MAO), leading to reduced levels of serotonin, noradrenaline, and dopamine. The cytokines also reduce degrees of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), accountable for neuronal expansion; this causes a reduction in neurogenesis, and therefore a reduction in hippocampal volume.

The dyregulated hippocampus and amygdala maintain unnatural levels of glucocorticoids, neurotrophic factors, and cytokines, thus making a vicious cycle where patients create a depressive state from which it is difficult to recuperate.

As brain framework has such a profound effect upon a patient's likelihood to build up depression, and the structure of the brain is intricately associated with season of labor and birth, maybe it's argued that season of birth would indirectly alter the chance of expanding depression, with a birth in the winter months causing an increase.

It has been discovered that treatments for depression and other psychiatric conditions also contribute towards cranial framework. Antidepressants, such as Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), have been shown to increase the neuroplasticity of the brain in patients with depression, thus protecting against the dysregulation of the limbic system, relieving symptoms such as anhedonia and avolition. SSRIs inhibit the 5HT reuptake transporter (5HTT, SERT), which would normally enable the break down of serotonin, in the synaptic terminals of neurones in the mind. Through this, there's a sustained increase in extracellular serotonin, and increased action of serotonin within the synaptic cleft. Long-term use of antidepressants has been proven to triggers changes in the quantities of the hippocampus and amygdala, as BDNF levels surge to allow for neurogenesis. This allows for the restoration of normal action of serotonin. These changes in brain framework further fortify the notion that cranial framework has a robust impact upon the probability of depression; as season of delivery itself can affect the development of the mind in utero, it can be argued that a patient's season of labor and birth may potentially increase or reduce their likelihood of expanding depression.

The Circadian System

The regulation of circadian rhythms can be modified in those with mental ailments; studies have shown that patients with major depressive disorder and SAD have improved function of the circadian clock. There are a number of genes in charge of biological rhythms and light sensitivity, and those for melanopsin have been found to possess variations in their manifestation.

The circadian clock is the method of which allow humans to follow a routine; situated in the hypothalamus, it is a key component of homeostasis, allowing organisms to maintain their sleep cycle, body temperature, blood circulation pressure, and other important functions. Circadian periodicity is dictated by the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) of the anterior hypothalamus. The suprachiasmatic nucleus evokes responses in neurons synapsing in the paraventricular nucleus (PVN), also in the hypothalamus. These neurones modulate other neurones in the superior cervical ganglia (SCG), those axons project to the pineal gland. This mechanism finally ends in the secretion of melatonin into the blood stream. Melatonin levels raises as the light in the environment reduces, peaking in the early hours of the night time.

Melanopsin is a photopigment within intrinsically photosensitive ganglion skin cells (ipRGCs) in the retina, and it is involved in replies to light in the surroundings, more specifically, circadian photoentrainment and the pupillary reflex. (Hattar et al. , 2003; Lucas et al. , 2003; Panda et al. , 2002, 2003). It has been found that variants in melanopsin function could be linked to differences in light sensitivity between individuals. Variants in circadian photoentrainment can occur because of this of sequence versions in genes mediating manifestation of melanopsin. (Hatori & Panda, 2010)

Studies have discovered that in humans, brief wavelength light (blue light) during the dark period acutely triggers alertness, even in humans who are blind. Zaidi et al. (2007) The result was significantly more deep in light of shorter wavelengths in accordance with longer wavelengths. This probably shows that ganglion cells in the eye that express melanopsin mediate alertness through projections to the suprachiasmatic nucleus, and other centres in the mind in charge of sleep and alertness, such as the ventral lateral preoptic nuclei (VLPO). Both SCN and VLPO acquire direct source from the ganglion cells expressing melanopsin, and the VLPO is more specifically mixed up in regulation of non-rapid eye activity (NREM) sleep. (Lu et al. , 2000)

It can hence be mentioned that the bond from melanopsin-expressing cells to regulatory nuclei in the mind is the reason for the significant impact of light upon the circadian rules of sleep. Modifications in melanopsin function may lead to reduced alertness during periods of less environmental light - such as during the winter. Furthermore, dissimilarities in melanopsin function may lead to seasonal versions in circadian timings and sleep. These factors element and may, consequently, donate to SAD. ( Melanopsin Gene Versions Interact With Season to Predict Sleep Onset and Chronotype) It had been found that SAD patients had reduced behavioural proposal during occasions when times were shorter. It was interpreted that the change could be related to a delay in period or slowing of homeostatic drive ( Melanopsin Gene Variants Interact With Season to Predict Sleep Starting point and Chronotype) However, it was also argued that a change in chronotype across months could be a consequence, rather than cause, of reduced spirits. ( Murray and fellow workers (2003))

Thus, it is certainly probable that environmental light levels coupled with genetic deviation in the expression of photopigments such as melanopsin could influence both sleep cycles and spirits, and for that reason one's season of delivery could impact the chance of growing depression. However, this brings into question whether this might connect with major depressive disorder itself, or more specific to seasonal disorders. Further research into the r

ole of melanopsin and the effects of environmental light levels could shed some light on potential links to depression and mental health.

Questions for Further Studies and Conclusions

Much research has been done to research the possible effects of season of beginning on the chance of growing depression. From these studies one could conclude that a labor and birth during autumn or winter increases the risk of growing depression because of alteration in both brain structure, and circadian physiology. That is due to the lower light levels a neonate is exposed to, resulting in alterations in melanopsin expression and reduced degrees of vitamin supplements D. However, as these factors primarily enter into play after beginning, the question of environmental effects upon the mom during gestation come into play; travel, for example, from one hemisphere to the other, could result in a 'summer' rather than 'winter' delivery. This seems beneficial at first, seemingly providing less risk of producing depression, however, the stress of travel during gestation could potentially have impacts upon the producing foetus. Further to this, you can question the effects of travel shortly after birth, as environmentally friendly factors that a child is subjected to, such as diet, infections, and light levels, dramatically change; this is combo with the stressor that is traveling itself.

There are also some current limitations when executing studies; as patients beginning dates are protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Work (HIPAA), the exactness of results and conclusions made is reduced. It would hence be helpful if birth day could be used in this research as results would be significantly more appropriate. Thus, it must be noted that the current investigations into season of beginning and its links to depression are subject to unreliability.

Taking the aforementioned factors under consideration, it could be concluded that there exists potentially a connection between of season of beginning and depression, as some links to other psychiatric conditions have been somewhat established. We've discovered that season of labor and birth has marked results after the cranial composition of neonates, which in turn result in modifications in risk of illness.

We see that the changes in composition are inherently associated with variations in the surroundings, which renders a connection between season of labor and birth and depression highly possible.

The changes in brain composition and their physiological results should be explored further, particularly due to the role that the circadian clock plays in depression, as a modification in the composition of its components would further clarify its effects upon risk. Circadian rhythms have been founded to be intricately related to one's mental health; however, it remains unconfirmed whether changes in sleep homeostasis are causative or a consequence of psychiatric conditions.

Therefore, more research should be conducted in order to understand the exact effects of environmental factors on depression and how they can alter risk; fundamentally, no steadfast summary can get by yet, but the door for further research remains wide open.

Work Cited

[1] World Health Organisation, Depression Truth sheet, Available from: http://www. who. int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs369/en/ [Accessed 1st March 2017]

[2] Lurie SJ1, Gawinski B, Pierce D, Rousseau SJ, Seasonal Affective Disorder. 2006 Nov 1;74(9):1521-4

[3] National Institute of Mental Health, Seasonal Affective Disorder. Available from: https://www. nimh. nih. gov/health/topics/seasonal-affective-disorder/index. shtml [Accessed 1st March 2017]

[4] McGrath JJ, Burne TH, Feron F, Mackay-Sim A, Eyles DW (2010) Developmental supplement D deficit and risk of schizophrenia: a 10-12 months upgrade. Schizophr Bull 36(6): 1073-1078.

[5] Davies G, Welham J, Chant D, Torrey EF, McGrath J (2003) A systematic review and meta-analysis of Northern Hemisphere season of labor and birth studies in schizophrenia. Schizophrenia Bulletin, 29(3), 587-593. .

[6] Disanto, G. , Morahan, J. , Lacey, M. , DeLuca, G. , Giovannoni, G. , Ebers, George C ; Ramagopalan, Sreeram V Gravenor, Mike B. (2012). Seasonal Distribution of Psychiatric Births in England (Season of Delivery and Psychiatric Disease). PLoS ONE, 7(4), E34866.

[7] Pantazatos, S. (2014). Prediction of individual season of delivery using MRI. NeuroImage, 88, 61-68.

[8] Bigler, E. , Mortensen, S. , Neeley, E. , Ozonoff, S. , Krasny, L. , Johnson, M Lu, J. , Provencal, S. L. , McMahon, W. Lainhart, J. (2007). Superior Temporal Gyrus, Vocabulary Function, and Autism. Developmental Neuropsychology, 31(2), 217-238.

[9] Christopher M Ciarleglio, John C Axley, Benjamin R Strauss, Karen L Gamble, & Douglas G Mcmahon. (2010). Perinatal photoperiod imprints the circadian clock. Mother nature Neuroscience, 14(1), 25.

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