Factors other than light may affect variations in melatonin, including disturbances in the geomagnetic field. Such a possibility was tested in Alta, Norway, located at latitude 70° N, where the aurora borealis is a result of large changes in the horizontal component (H) of the geomagnetic field. Geomagnetic disturbances are felt more strongly closer to the pole than at lower latitudes. Also note-worthy in Alta is the fact that the sun does not rise above the horizon for several weeks during the winter. To examine whether changes in geomagnetic activity influence the secretion of melatonin, saliva was collected from 25 healthy subjects in Alta several times during the day-night and at different times of the year. Single cosinor analyses yielded individual estimates of the circadian amplitude and MESOR of melatonin. A 3-hour mean value for the local geomagnetic activity index, K, was used for approximately the same 24-hour span. A circadian rhythm was found to characterize both melatonin and K, the peak in K (23:24) preceding that of melatonin (06:08). During the span of investigation, a circannual variation also characterized both variables. Correlation analyses suggest that changes in geomagnetic activity had to be of a certain magnitude to affect the circadian amplitude of melatonin. If large enough (> 80 nT/3 h), changes in geomagnetic activity also significantly decreased salivary melatonin concentration.
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- Geomagnetic activity