Can Your Tablet Make You Depressed?

By Jessica Binns, Contributing Editor — November 15, 2012

From neck crick to eye strain, using today's latest gadgets can lead to a host of health issues, and according to new research from the journal Nature, depression may be the latest side effect of technology.

Johns Hopkins University biologist Samer Hattar found that when mice are exposed to bright light, it activates intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells or ipRGCs, special cells in the eyes that are tied to the brain's designated areas for memory, mood and learning.

"Of course, you can't ask mice how they feel, but we did see an increase in depression-like behaviors, including a lack of interest in sugar or pleasure seeking, and the study mice moved around far less during some of the tests we did," Hattar explained. "They also clearly did not learn as quickly, or remember tasks as well. They were not as interested in novel objects as were mice on a regular light-darkness cycle schedule."

What does this mean for humans? Exposure to light at nighttime, whether it's your living room lamp or you're using your iPad in the dark, can lead to elevated stress hormone levels, which in turn may cause depression and decreased cognitive function, according to Hattar.

And given how addictive simply being on the Internet can be, just saying "no" to the late-night call of your tablet may be easier said than done. Given the health tradeoff, however, it might be wise to wake up earlier to finish a task on your tablet rather than working into the wee hours of the night.

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