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Depressed Hamsters Help Researchers 172

Ant wrote to mention an ABC News article indicating that hampsters feel the same effects during the winter months as humans do. Known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.), winter-related depression affects up to 20 percent of Americans. From the article: "For example, if the animals spend more time hovering near the walls of their containers, rather than at the center, it's believed they feel more anxious. If they decline to slurp up tempting offers of sugar water, scientists take it as a sign of depression. Another test involves placing the animals in water and seeing if they swim or simply give up and float. Hamsters don't sink apparently, but float in water. 'The sooner they give up in the water, the more depressed they are,' Pyter said. 'If you give them an antidepressant they don't give up as quickly.'"
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Depressed Hamsters Help Researchers

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 10, 2005 @07:49AM (#14227684)
    The only problem with all these studies with species that can't communicate is that there's more than one explanation for observed behaviour. But one always appears to attach an explanation that supports what one wants to find. How do you know that a hamster hovering near the walls is feeling anxiety? Or not drinking the water is depression?
  • Assumptions (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 10, 2005 @07:53AM (#14227693)
    Assuming that other critters feel emotions the same way we do is foolish.

    For instance, one of the symptoms of depression is sleeping too much. Based on that, we can conclude that bears suffer from extreme depression during the winter. After all, they do nothing but sleep.
  • by pieterh ( 196118 ) on Saturday December 10, 2005 @08:04AM (#14227723) Homepage
    Let's see... cage up some hamsters, deprive them of natural light, natural surroundings, and buddies, give them an artificial sucrose-laden diet, see how they get depressed, give them drugs to make them happy?

    And then suggest that these results could apply to people? Brave New World, anyone?

    Drugs. will. not. fix. you.

    Get out of your cage, get into the open, make better relationships, find a job that respects you, stop moving home every couple of years, start talking to your family not shouting at them, eat decent food instead of that sugar-laden "lo-fat" junk you're stuffing your face with, stop watching TV, cut down on the booze, and the religion, and for baby jesus' sake, stop taking artificial drugs.

  • by ciroknight ( 601098 ) on Saturday December 10, 2005 @08:10AM (#14227731)
    You know, it sounds like you're right, but it seems anymore that the whole medical profession's advice is simply "Diet, exercize, get some sun but not too much, drink plenty of water". It sounds redundant every time you hear it, and some of us get pissed that there's not simply a pill we can take to fix us, but the truth is simply we weren't built to live the way we are today. We were hunter gatherers, we were used to being outside all the time, we were used to plenty of clean water, we were used to getting plenty of exercize just to find food, and the foods we ate were lean.

    Now, it's too easy to spend your entire day without moving more than 100 feet (under your own power), to drink stimulants and sugar rich liquids, and to eat foods that aren't even digestible to some bacteria.

    The medical profession can only offer that as advice anymore, as medicine can only take us humans so much further. Today they've got a pill for just about anything you could imagine, but it still doesn't replace the simple nessecities we as machines need to operate. We just haven't reached the point where we can compress water, fresh air and sunshine into a pill, and hopefully we never will.

    So while it might be insulting, maybe you should take it as a wakeup call that your lifestyle is entirely unmaintainable. Maybe you should take their advice and shake the winter blues, and a few pounds that we could all stand to lose anyways. I don't need a hamster to tell me twice, and hopefully neither should a scientist.
  • Re:Dubious (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 10, 2005 @08:19AM (#14227750)
    According to current theories most people who suffer from SAD do so because they don't respond to artifical light as if it were natural light (so producing higher levels or melatonine). Which you would of course know had you read the article.
  • Nocturnal (Score:1, Insightful)

    by theantipode ( 664138 ) on Saturday December 10, 2005 @11:40AM (#14228351)
    Hamsters are nocturnal and primarily found in the desert, which gets quite cold at night. By all rights, shouldn't they be more active come wintertime?

The moon may be smaller than Earth, but it's further away.