The SSRI citalopram increases the sensitivity of the human circadian system to light in an acute dose

E. M. McGlashan, L. S. Nandam, P. Vidafar, D. R. Mansfield, S. M.W. Rajaratnam, S. W. Cain

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)


Rationale: Disturbances of the circadian system are common in depression. Though they typically subside when depression is treated with antidepressants, the mechanism by which this occurs is unknown. Despite being the most commonly prescribed class of antidepressants, the effect of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) on the human circadian clock is not well understood. Objective: To examine the effect of the SSRI citalopram (30 mg) on the sensitivity of the human circadian system to light. Methods: This study used a double-blind, placebo-controlled, within-subjects, crossover design. Participants completed two melatonin suppression assessments in room level light (~ 100 lx), taking either a single dose of citalopram 30 mg or a placebo at the beginning of each light exposure. Melatonin suppression was calculated by comparing placebo and citalopram light exposure conditions to a dim light baseline. Results: A 47% increase in melatonin suppression was observed after administration of an acute dose of citalopram, with all participants showing more suppression after citalopram administration (large effect, d = 1.54). Further, melatonin onset occurred later under normal room light with citalopram compared to placebo. Conclusions: Increased sensitivity of the circadian system to light could assist in explaining some of the inter-individual variability in antidepressant treatment responses, as it is likely to assist in recovery in some patients, while causing further disruption for others.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3201-3209
Number of pages9
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2018


  • Antidepressants
  • Circadian rhythms
  • Depression
  • Light at night
  • Light sensitivity
  • Melatonin suppression
  • Sleep

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