Magnetic field effects on pineal indoleamine metabolism and possible biological consequences

R. J. Reiter, B. A. Richardson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

72 Scopus citations


In recent years, there has been a great deal of publicity concerning the possible health effects of electric and/or magnetic field exposure. One of the most frequently reported observations after the exposure of animals to either electric or magnetic fields relates to alterations in the metabolism of serotonin (5HT) to melatonin within the pineal gland. This review summarizes these results particularly in animals exposed to intermittently inverted, non-time varying magnetic fields, i.e., pulsed static magnetic fields. When exposure occurs at night, the conversion of 5HT to melatonin is typically depressed, not unlike that after light exposure at night. The mechanisms by which pulsed magnetic fields alter the ability of the pineal to convert 5HT to the chief pineal hormone melatonin remains unknown but may involve effects on any or all of the following: the retinas, the suprachiasmatic nuclei, the peripheral sympathetic nervous system, and the pinealocytes. Results to date suggest that induced electrical currents (eddy currents) produced by the pulsed magnetic fields are particularly detrimental to pineal indoleamine metabolism and may be an important causative factor in the metabolic changes measured. The physiological consequences of perturbations in the melatonin rhythm induced by magnetic field exposure remain unknown.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2283-2287
Number of pages5
JournalFASEB Journal
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1992


  • melatonin
  • metabolism
  • pineal gland
  • serotonin
  • static magnetic fields

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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