How do you make your hamster depressed? Leave the TV on at night.
I didn’t even know that hamsters got depressed, but apparently they do, according to an articleby PsychCentral. One of the ways you can tell is that they start drinking less sugar water. “Scientists assume this occurs because they’re not getting as much pleasure from normally enjoyable activities.” If that is true, then the hamsters are experiencing anhedonia, which is one of the diagnostic criteria for depression.
The article was about an experiment in which scientists tested the effects of leaving a light on that was about as bright as a TV (5 lux) at night for some hamsters and turning the lights off for other hamsters. Not only did the TV-hamsters get depressed, but when the scientists cut up their brains, they found they had atrophied.
Does this apply to humans? Let’s check it out with sample size one: I prefer total darkness at night, too. The lights from neighbors’ houses shining into my room irritate me. Unfortunately, irritable mood is not one of the diagnostic criteria for depression unless you are a child or adolescent. Adults have to feel moods like “sad” or “empty” to qualify for a depressed mood in the DSM. Plus, my desire for sugar water increases when I’m depressed.
It looks like we’ll have to wait for some human trials of this experiment. Without the cutting-up-their-brains part.
[First published on Nathen’s Miraculous Escape, March 4, 2011.]