Does the moon affect us in ways that we don't fully understand?
Are prisons more dangerous at the full moon and are our hospital emergency rooms more full at the full moon?
These observations have been largely dispelled as myths.
But recently scientific research is showing a slightly different connection between humans and the moon.
Hi and welcome to the Les Perras podcast episode number 371.
Today I want to talk about the moon or more specifically our connection to the moon or the moon's connection to us.
In 2005, David Avery was working in a psychiatric ward.
A patient came in with a problem with mood swings.
They were quite extreme swings from one mood to another.
But the patient was an engineer, and a problem solver.
Because of this, he had been taking meticulous records of his moods, so that he could better understand it.
He shared his records with Avery, and Avery was surprised and impressed with the rhythmicity of his mood swings.
Avery finally thought there might be a connection with
the moon but in the end he dismissed it because he
couldn't find any mechanism to
connect the moon cycles to the man.
The man was given medicine and discharged.
12 years later, a famous psychiatrist called Thomas Wehr
wrote a paper about some patients with rapid cycling bipolar disorder.
This is where people switch between
depression and mania faster than normal.
The surprising thing about all these patients was the crazy regularity of their episodes.
Wehr said that he was impressed, because these rhythms seemed unlike biological rhythms,
and more similar to a physical rhythm,
because they were so precise.
Wehr tracked the rhythms of this patient for years and years and collected a large amount of data.
By looking at each individual patient’s data he was able to find a pattern.
In fact he found two patterns.
There was a 14.8 day cycle and a 13.7 day cycle.
Avery read Wehr’s paper and then called him because he recalled the situation with his patient 12 years earlier.
After some discussion they looked at the data and discovered a 14.8 day pattern in Avery's patient.
This is shocking because the pattern once again was very rhythmic.
Perhaps more rhythmic than normal biological processes might suggest.
And the rhythm is surprisingly similar to the rhythm of the moon.
The problem was explaining it.
Finding the pattern was one thing,
but how could we explain what kind of mechanism was
working between the moon and these patients?
People have long speculated on a variety of mechanisms for how the moon could affect us.
One of the most common mechanisms suggested was the moonlight itself.
But this has been largely dismissed because
in modern life, there are all sorts of artificial
light sources that we are subject to.
If light was the stimulus or the mechanism, then
it wouldn't be working anymore because of electric light.
On the other hand, there might be something
connecting us with the magnetic field of the moon.
There is a molecule in animals called cryptochrome that may be functioning as a magnetic sensor.
We don't know for certain that it functions as a magnetic sensor
but we do know that it has a connection with circadian rhythms in our bodies.
Science has not yet found a conclusive explanation,
but this is one of the possible mechanisms
Whether the mechanism is found or not, the correlation has been found.
There is a distinct correlation,
and it seems higher than random chance.
It's too early to say that the moon would
affect all humans, but it's not too early to
say that the moon may affect some humans.
This means that our earth's nearest neighbour, the moon, could have an influence on us after all.
There are lots of artists who claimed
that they are more creative during different phases of the moon. The scientific correlation that has been
found might support some of those claims.
It's too early to say the moon doesn't affect us,
but it's also too early to say that it conclusively does.
If you’re interested in other myths, you can listen to my podcast on Old Wives Tales.