Researchers find link between circadian rhythm and mental health

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A new study has found a connection between circadian rhythm disruption (CRD) and mental health disorders such as anxiety, autism, schizophrenia, and Tourette syndrome.

The research, published in the journal, Translational Psychiatry, was conducted by a team of neuroscience, pharmaceutical sciences, and computer science researchers at the University of California, Irvine. The scientists hypothesized that CRD is a psychopathology factor shared by a broad range of mental illnesses and that research into its molecular foundation could be key to unlocking better therapies and treatments.

“Circadian rhythms play a fundamental role in all biological systems at all scales, from molecules to populations,” said Pierre Baldi, PhD, UCI distinguished professor of computer science and senior author of the study in a statement. “Our analysis found that circadian rhythm disruption is a factor that broadly overlaps the entire spectrum of mental health disorders.”

In the study, researchers found evidence of the connection by evaluating peer-reviewed literature on the most prevalent mental health disorders. They found a significant sign in each of the mental disorders – a problem with sleep. Researchers also hypothesized that CRD psychopathology factors can be generalized to other mental health issues, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, food addiction, and Parkinson’s disease.”

One important unresolved issue the researchers found centers on the causal relationship between CRD and mental health disorders: Is CRD a key player in the origin and onset of these maladies or a self-reinforcing symptom in the progression of disease?

To answer this and other questions, the team suggested an examination of CRD at the molecular level using transcriptomic (gene expression) and metabolomic technologies in mouse models for future studies.