Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Magnetic Suicides

It's one of the more unusual questions you will come across today :

Does The Earth's Magnetic Field Cause Suicides?

Bizarrely, the answer might actually be yes, according to this story in New Scientist :
Many animals can sense the Earth's magnetic field, so why not people, asks Oleg Shumilov of the Institute of North Industrial Ecology Problems in Russia.

Shumilov looked at activity in the Earth's geomagnetic field from 1948 to 1997 and found that it grouped into three seasonal peaks every year: one from March to May, another in July and the last in October.

Surprisingly, he also found that the geomagnetism peaks matched up with peaks in the number of suicides in the northern Russian city of Kirovsk over the same period.

Shumilov acknowledges that a correlation like this does not necessarily mean there is a causal link, but he points out that there have been several other studies suggesting a link between human health and geomagnetism.

The review's author, Michael Rycroft, formerly head of the European Geosciences Society, says that geomagnetic health problems affect 10 to 15% of the population.

Psychiatrists too have noticed a correlation between geomagnetic activity and suicide rates.

Geomagnetic storms – periods of high geomagnetic activity caused by large solar flares – have also been linked to clinical depression.

"The most plausible explanation for the association between geomagnetic activity and depression and suicide is that geomagnetic storms can desynchronise circadian rhythms and melatonin production," says Kelly Posner, a psychiatrist at Columbia University in the US.

The pineal gland, which regulates circadian rhythm and melatonin production, is sensitive to magnetic fields. "The circadian regulatory system depends upon repeated environmental cues to [synchronise] internal clocks," says Posner. "Magnetic fields may be one of these environmental cues."

Geomagnetic storms could disrupt body clocks, precipitating seasonal affective disorder and therefore increase suicide risk, Posner told New Scientist.
Go Here To Read The Full Story

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