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Gloomy Days Dim Cognitive Powers of the Depressed
Date:7/28/2009

Study found thinking skills suffered when skies were overcast

TUESDAY, July 28 (HealthDay News) -- A new study shows that gloomy days are linked with memory and other cognitive problems in people suffering from depression.

Previous research has shown that many people feel their moods shift with shifting skies, with more depression linked with less sunlight, but this is the first time that light exposure and cognition have been paired, stated the authors of a study appearing in the July 28 online issue of Environmental Health.

Light therapy, such as that prescribed for people with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), might also help people with cognitive impairments, the authors added.

"This is speculation, but those who have cognitive impairment could be helped with sunlight," said study author Shia Kent, a doctoral candidate at the School of Public Health at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

"This is very interesting. I haven't seen a study exactly like this," said Dr. Richard Isaacson, an assistant professor of neurology and medicine at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. "We're always looking for anything easy and safe in terms of stimulating the brain. This is the beginning of something, although we definitely need more research and investigation."

Prior studies have demonstrated a strong link between SAD and other forms of depression, and even with rates of violent murders, suicides and aggressive behavior. Depression tends to become more pronounced in darker months, while aggressive behaviors tend to escalate in lighter months.

The effect of sunlight on cognition, however, has not been well researched.

The researchers used NASA weather data to see if there was any correlation between days of sunlight and levels of cognitive impairment in people with and without depression.

Their original hypothesis panned out: Depressed people who s
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