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Neuropsychopharmacology. 1999 Dec;21(6):765-72.

A new concept for melatonin deficit: on pineal calcification and melatonin excretion.

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Department of Psychiatry, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany.


Even though exogenous melatonin has proven to influence sleep and circadian parameters, low endogenous melatonin is not related to sleep disturbances, nor does it predict response to melatonin replacement therapy. In this manuscript, we present a new concept towards a definition of a melatonin deficit. The purpose of the study was to introduce a marker for an intra-individual decrease in melatonin production. Therefore, we developed a method to quantify the degree of pineal calcification (DOC) using cranial computed tomography. Combining pineal DOC with the organs's size, we estimated the uncalcified pineal gland volume. This estimation was positively and significantly associated with 6-sulfatoxymelatonin (aMT6s), collected over 24 hours in urine, in 26 subjects. Data yielded evidence that the decline in aMT6s excretion with age can be sufficiently explained by an increased pineal calcification. These results suggest that DOC might be useful as an indicator of an intra-individual, decreased capability of the pineal gland to produce melatonin. DOC might prove to be a response-marker for melatonin replacement therapy and a vulnerability marker of the circadian timing system.

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