Melatonin Influences Mental Capacities of Preterm Infants.
Source: Journal of Pediatrics
Melatonin is a hormone that is produced by the pineal gland in the brain. For years, scientists have known that melatonin's main function was in the control of our sleep patterns. However, more recent research has revealed that it also functions as an important antioxidant. After puberty melatonin output begins a gradual steady decline. Adults experience about a 37 percent decline in daily melatonin output between the ages of 20 and 70 with the majority of the decline occurring after age 40.
A study published in the Journal of Pediatrics investigated the role of melatonin on mental capacities of newborn infants. The study included 18 term and 21 pre-term babies who were recruited into the study between two and nine days after delivery. Diapers were collected from the infants at the (corrected) ages of 4, 6 and 9 months to determine urine levels of melatonin. Researchers also conducted mental evaluations of the infants involved in the study. The results revealed significant differences in mental capacity between term and pre-term infants at 4, 6 and 9 months. It was also found that melatonin levels were lower in pre-term infants. These results suggest that melatonin production and mental development are delayed in pre-term infants when compared to full-term infants.1
1 Ferber SG, Als H, McAnulty G, et al. Melatonin and Mental Capacities in Newborn Infants. J Pediatr. Feb2011.