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Winter depression may heed hormonal signal

It's the most wonderful time of the year, according to a popular holiday song. Yet it's the most excruciating time for people who endure the biological tidings of discomfort and gloom that are linked to winter's arrival, according to a new study.

A specific shift of the body's daily pacemaker, akin to one that regulates seasonal behavior in many mammals, underlies recurring winter depression, contend psychiatrist Thomas A. Wehr of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) in Bethesda, Md., and his coworkers.

"These results vindicate what we suspected about this condition when we first described it in 1984," says NIMH psychiatrist Norman E. Rosenthal, a coauthor of the new report in the December Archives of General Psychiatry. Conducting a study big enough to probe the condition's biological bases has taken years, he notes.

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