There may be a genetic link between mood disorders and the body’s internal clock, a new study suggests.
Research published earlier this year linked disruptions in the body clock (circadian rhythms) with an increased risk of mood issues such as depression and bipolar disorders.
In this new study, researchers analyzed data from 71,500 people in the United Kingdom and identified two areas of the genome—the complete set of human genes—that may contain variants that disrupt the body’s natural circadian cycles of activity and rest.
Circadian cycles control many aspects of our lives, from sleeping and eating to hormone levels. They are fundamental to maintaining health and well-being.
The researchers found that one of these areas contains the gene neurofascin, which is linked to another gene responsible for bipolar disorder. This suggests a biological connection between circadian cycle disruption and mood disorders, the study authors said.
“These new findings extend our understanding of the complex genetic architecture of rest-activity cycles and how these might relate to mood instability, neuroticism, depression and bipolar disorder,” said study senior author Daniel Smith. He’s a professor of psychiatry at the University of Glasgow in Scotland.
“Ultimately, our goal is to use this genetic information to develop and efficiently target or stratify new and improved treatment options,” Smith added in a university news release.
The study was published in the journal EBioMedicine.