Science of Circadian Rhythms and Chronotherapy
Historic and Contemporary Milestones
For clinicians and students entering the field, a grounding in the remarkable bench-to-bedside development of environmental therapies provides a springboard for informed application and continued innovation. Chronotherapeutics did not emerge de novo from clinical insight or inspiration, as was the case for many classic, theory-based psychotherapies of the first half of the 20th century. Schools of clinical psychology have shown remarkable staying power, with passionate advocates among patients and clinicians alike. What was lacking is a basic research foundation and demonstrated efficacy in controlled clinical trials. (The behavior therapies stand out as an exception, with their roots in the experimental analysis of learning and motivation.)
In the biological domain, light therapy for winter depression emerged as a clinical tool after a generation of animal lab research on the effects of light on behavioral and physiological responses to seasonal changes in daylength (photoperiod) and the 24-hour pattern of light and dark exposure (circadian rhythm entrainment). This “translational” achievement stands out in psychiatry, where the major pharmacotherapies were discovered by chance, often as side effects of treatment for unrelated medical illnesses.
Here we offer the reader a glimpse into the literature that formed the field — a starter library of pre-clinical and applied building blocks. Check back as we shape the collection.