Clock Genes Linked to Depression

Patients with major depressive disorder appear to have malfunctioning circadian rhythms, which could lead researchers to new avenues for treatment.

By Edyta Zielinska | May 15, 2013

FLICKR, BETSSSSSYPeople with major depressive disorder (MDD) are known to suffer from disrupted sleep and circadian cycles, however the exact mechanism behind this connection had been difficult to pin down. Now, a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Monday (May 13) has shown that autopsied MDD patients have a disrupted expression of major clock genes compared with control individuals. “It’s as if they were living in a different time zone than the one they died in,” senior author Jun Li of the University of Michigan told The Independent.

The researchers analyzed the brains of 55 healthy people and 34 patients with MDD postmortem, using a forensic technique that pinpoints the time of death based on cyclical gene expression in the brain. They noticed that the cyclic pattern of major circadian clock genes, such as BMAL, PER1-2-3 and others, were much weaker in MDD patients.

“We think the depressed individuals are more likely to be out-of-sync with the regular wake-sleep timing,” Li told The Independent. “Our data also suggests that their daily cycles are not only shifted, but also disrupted. That is, they sleep by the wrong clock, and when they do sleep, the quality [of sleep] could be different from normal sleep.” He added, “if we can understand how depression and poor sleep reinforce each other, we may be able to find better treatment, perhaps by finding better ways to break the cycle.”

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Avatar of: snikkerz


Posts: 1

May 15, 2013

I am constantly feeling down and out, depressed, lost, confused, blank minded, wish I could be a test subject for 24 hours cause I feel that what I feel could open new discoveries to science, and finally be helped for myself, and others.
Avatar of: Baos780


Posts: 1

May 16, 2013

Want to help, toss out daylight savings time!!!!!  The invention of the light bulb has rendered it moot.

Avatar of: aries64xx


Posts: 1

May 16, 2013

Unrelated but related at the same time, but this makes me wonder about people with Panic Disorder and their sleep patterns. As a sufferer of clinical depression and panic disorder I wonder if it links together somehow. I never ever feel like I get enough sleep; or it's disrupted sleep or something.

Avatar of: Kimmeia


Posts: 1

May 16, 2013

As snikkerz said, if you need test subjects, I would also be willing. My inability to carry on a normal life is ripping apart my home life. I sleep constantly, always tired, feeling down. I no longer listen to music because no matter if its a good feeling or bad, it all still makes me cry. I've put on 30# I can't get rid of because I'm too sad and tired to do something about it. I very barely take my kids out. I'm kissing out on their childhood because I can't even take them to the park. My son is failing 6th grade and I have trouble waking. If I wake before 3pm, I fight my body to go back to sleep. I'm up MAYBE 8 hours a day. My life is awful and I need as much help as I can get. I love these kids to death but I just can't get up , channel a decent mood. Any help would be wonderful.
Avatar of: GhostCorps


Posts: 1

May 16, 2013

My situation's seemingly within the alternate extrema from the other posters; I barely ever sleep, usually remaining awake for 1-3 days at a time. Feelings of perpetual lethargy and disorientation, the ability to feel exhausted yet unable to sleep... Can't hold a job, and I'm a medical student who's failed the last two semesters because I never feel it within myself to attend classes.

I suppose being a first-generation college student doesn't exactly embolden my chances for success.

Circadian rhythms ftw, AMIRITE!? :P

Avatar of: Piids


Posts: 1

May 19, 2013

Considering the persistent sleep issues linked to MDD it's not really surprising, more surprising that something like this has not been done previously.

As someone previously diagnosed with MDD (including major circadian rythm issues) and with a sibling with severe circadian issues without MDD (Not twins but would be interesting to see some twin studies on this) perhaps this could have something to do with the heritability of MDD. It certainly helps me to imagine the possibility that a circadian rythm gene may be ONE genetic factor contributing to the onset of depression (together with the wide amount of factors already implicated).

More interesting would be to investigate individuals with circadian rythm issues and see if interventions could help protect against the onset of MDD.


Avatar of: Shari


Posts: 1

May 19, 2013

A lot of sleep disorder is due to unusual patterns of the levels of cortisol.  If your levels of cortisol are highest when you should be will not sleep.  Why do levels get disrupted?  Those who are stuck in the patterning of fight-or-flight whether because of post traumatic stress disorder or more innocuous emotional issues often have challenged and unusual levels of cortisol.  

Continual fight-or-flight or PTSD can often and almost always lead to one level of depression or another.  Massive depression.  Of course.

My great appreciation to all writers and editors, but it's a relative no-brainer to understand why the "clock" is different with those who have had massive depression.  This is non-news and there are certainly answers.  This is not a medical mystery.

Avatar of: BrianL111


Posts: 1

May 19, 2013

So, my insomnia my be related to my weird "doing something in the morning and later in the day think I did it yesterday" along with my "thinking I forgot to do something at the end of the day when it's really scheduled for tomorrow" may have a scientific explanation after all.

Avatar of: roldor


Posts: 1

May 20, 2013

I had also major depressions.

But now, i am not watching TV anymore.

The brain has not to process the mostly unnecessary information anymore.

Instead, i am slowly walking several Kilometers in the evening and think about the general situation. This makes tired and opens the mind to the reality and helps to solve problems. Also stimulating substances, like coffee and alcohol after 1600 are pure poison for a good sleep. 

It is a great help. Help yourself, before psychiatrists and pharmaceuticals

must do it!


Avatar of: ProfessorK


Posts: 11

May 21, 2013

Interesting find. Really hoping this sheds some more light on not only depression but various other sorts of mental disorders. 

Avatar of: PBX20


Posts: 1

May 22, 2013

I get depressed really bad and so glad thats summer is hear in western PA.

I love spend time at  a resort called Sunny Rest or at the White Thorn Lodge in PA. Its nudsit place but it does help my self to break sleep in days and help less wanting to move or care to eat. I hope help others that are or going try this. Im sure youll agree and glad at lest when you can get away and free of clothes and the outdoor walking around feeling nice air and warm sun.

Avatar of: Tomr


Posts: 1

July 17, 2013

I am the same as snickerz.. If there is an option to sign up for testing please put me on it please help this is no living. Always blank minded, confused tired. My mind is dead, any testing I will come for . Please help me

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