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Depressed? Blame the heavens

Scientists have long laughed at astrology’s underlying premise—that celestial events can influence human emotions and behavior. But a series of new studies has produced evidence that at least one kind of astronomical event—solar flares—may, in fact, affect human beings. Periodically, the sun erupts with large storms that hurl waves of electromagnetically charged particles into space, altering Earth’s own magnetic field.
Several recent studies have found a connection between changes in that magnetic field and depression and suicide rates. One of those studies found that suicide rates in a Russian city closely matched patterns of geomagnetic activity, and a South African study found a similar correlation between solar flare-ups and clinical depression.

In 1994, a British study noticed that rates of hospital admissions for depression rose by more than 36 percent just after geomagnetic storms. The pineal gland, which regulates melatonin production and circadian rhythms, is known to be sensitive to magnetic fields, psychiatrist Kelly Posner tells New Scientist. It appears that alterations in the field disrupt our internal body clocks, making the release of mood hormones more erratic—leading to depression.

While the findings may seem surprising, the brains of other creatures are known to respond to magnetic fields: Birds, sea turtles, and other animals migrate and navigate based on these fields, which they somehow can sense.

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