BIOLOGICAL ASPECTS OF SUICIDE: Circadian Disorganization

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Disturbances in the circadian rhythmicity of biological functions have been reported in various mental disorders. Four lines of research—hormonal, electroencephalographic, cerebral spinal fluid, and circadian rhythmicity—suggest possible changes in suicidal individuals. During a study investigating the effect of a photoperiod shift on circadian rhythms, 15 male, healthy, normal subjects were used. Following a 5-day baseline period a 12-hour photoperiod shift took place and was followed by 10 days of recovery period. Multiple parameters were monitored. Two weeks following completion of the study one subject suicided. The data were examined to determine whether the suicided subject differed, rhythmically, from other subjects. Summation dials describing phase changes and vector difference dials describing dynamic phase relationships of rhythm pairs showed that the rhythms of this subject were poorly synchronized internally during baseline. Total urinary output of all parameters was lower than all other subjects during baseline and more of his urinary parameters rephased incompletely during recovery. The results suggest that circadian asynchrony and an inability to respond effectively to a phase shift may characterize a presuicidal state. These results are discussed in terms of the four lines of research involving biological aspects of suicide and suggest some intriguing interactions.

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