Peering into our body’s complicated relationship with the sun

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Image credit: Aliaksei Kaponia

One of the impressive things about biochemistry and cell biology is how it can produce physical correlates to things that we know and experience, but have no detailed explanation for. There’s a really interesting example out in Cell that has to do with the effects of sunlight on mood and learning.

Sunlight (generally speaking, its ultraviolet component) is well-known to be used by the body in vitamin D synthesis, and its other effects on the skin are very well known, both bad (sunburn, various forms of skin cancer) and good (relief from psoriasis and several other conditions). Those all make sense, and you can come up with reasonable hypotheses involving inflammation, damage/repair mechanisms, and so on.

The increased glutamate downstream of UV exposure does indeed set off more brain activity (as shown by electrophysiology experiments), and also shows significant effects on memory and motor-learning activity.

Related article:  Review: David Reich's 'Who We Are and How We Got Here' fails to examine ethical issues around DNA research

We are all aware that the knee bone is connected to the thigh bone, but did you know that the brain was connected to the skin? You’d have to think that beta-endorphin and glutamate are not going to be the end of it (although those two are powerful enough for plenty of effects). One immediately wonders about the well-known effects of sunlight on seasonal depression, among other possibilities. Everything in the body is more or less hooked up to everything else at some level.

Read full, original post: Sunlight And the Brain

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