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Norman E. Rosenthal

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Norman E. Rosenthal
Norman E. Rosenthal.jpg
Norman E. Rosenthal
Johannesburg, South Africa
NationalitySouth African
OccupationResearcher, professor, psychiatrist, author

Norman E. Rosenthal (born 1950) is a South African author, psychiatrist and scientist who in the 1980s first described winter depression or seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and pioneered the use of light therapy for its treatment.

Rosenthal was born and educated in South Africa but moved to the United States to complete his medical training. He established a private practice and conducted research at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) as a researcher and senior researcher for more than twenty years. It was here that he studied the disorders of mood, sleep, and biological rhythms and was the first psychiatrist to describe and diagnose Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Rosenthal's research with SAD led him to write Winter Blues and two other books on the topic. More recently Rosenthal has written a book on the Transcendental Meditation technique and conducted research on its potential influence on posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In total, he has written nine books, including one on the topic of jet lag, and published 200 scholarly papers.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Rosenthal was born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa. He received his M.B. B.Ch. (equivalent of an M.D.) from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and completed an internship in Internal Medicine and Surgery at Johannesburg General Hospital. He moved to the United States to further his education as a resident, and then became Chief Resident in psychiatry at the New York State Psychiatric Institute and Columbia Presbyterian Hospital.[2]


Rosenthal began a private practice in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. in 1979.[2] At the same time, he began a research fellowship with Frederick Goodwin at the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Maryland.[3] This was the beginning of a 20-year career with the NIMH as a Researcher, Research Fellow, and Senior Researcher.[2][4] Rosenthal became the director of seasonal studies at the institute and in 1985, led research with 160 participants on the effects of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and later studied the psycho-physiological phenomena of "spring fever".[5][6]

Rosenthal co-authored the book, How to Beat Jet Lag in 1993 and in 1998, he was named clinical professor of psychiatry at Georgetown Medical School. He became the Medical Director of Capital Clinical Research Associates in Rockville, Maryland in 2001 and is currently its CEO.[1] He received a special recognition award from the Society for Light Treatment & Biological Rhythms (SLBTR) in 1999 and published the book The Emotional Revolution: How the New Science of Feeling Can Transform Your Life in 2002.[7]

Early in his career, Rosenthal learned the Transcendental Meditation technique while in South Africa, but found that as a medical student and a medical resident he didn't have time to practice. Then 35 years later, after one of his patients had a dramatic improvement as a result of TM, he began practicing again and then began recommending it to his patients.[8] In 2011, he published Transcendence: Healing and Transformation Through Transcendental Meditation, which debuted at number seven on the New York Times' Best Sellers: Hardcover Advice, How-To And Miscellaneous list.[9] Earlier that year, Rosenthal published preliminary research on the potential influence of TM on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.[4][10][11]

Rosenthal has written more than 200 scholarly publications and his writings have been featured in the American Journal of Psychiatry, Psychiatry Research, Archives of General Psychiatry, Biological Psychiatry, Molecular Psychiatry, and Journal of Affective Disorders. He continues to conduct research on pediatric and adolescent SAD, pharmaceutical treatments for SAD and the effects of light therapy on seasonal bipolar disorder and circadian rhythms.[12] He is often cited in mainstream media as an expert on the topic of SAD.[13][14][15]

According to his web site, Rosenthal has received the A.P.A. New York District Branch prize for paper written by a resident, the Psychiatric Institute Alumni Prize for best research performed by Psychiatric Institute Resident, the Public Health Service Commendation Medal, the Anna Monika Foundation Award for Depression Research, the Public Health Service Outstanding Service Award.[1]

Seasonal affective disorder[edit]

Rosenthal is referred to as the pioneer of research into seasonal affective disorder. In 1984, he coined the term and began studying the use of light therapy as a treatment.[2][16][17][18][19] Rosenthal's interest in studying the effects of the seasons on mood changes emerged when he emigrated from the mild climate of Johannesburg, South Africa, to the northeastern US. As a resident in the psychiatry program at the New York State Psychiatric Institute, he noticed that he was more energetic and productive during the long days of summer versus the shorter darker days of the winter.[20][21][22]

In 1980, his team at NIMH admitted a patient with depression who had observed seasonal changes within himself and thought previous research regarding melatonin release at night may be able to help him.[23][24] Rosenthal and his colleagues treated the patient with bright lights, which helped to successfully manage the depression.[2][20] They conducted a formal follow-up study to confirm the success. The results were published in 1984, officially describing SAD and pioneering light therapy as an effective treatment method.[25] The research on SAD and light therapy is inconclusive and in some ways controversial, as not all researchers agree with Rosenthal's conclusions on the effect of light therapy and at what time of day the light should be administered.[5][17][26]

Rosenthal has written three books on the topic of SAD; Seasonal Affective Disorders and Phototherapy (1989), Seasons of the Mind: Why You Get the Winter Blues and What You Can Do About It (1989) and Winter Blues (2005). In 1984, he developed the Seasonal Pattern Assessment Questionnaire, a widely-used screening tool for seasonality. As a result of his research and publications, "it is now widely acknowledged that winter depression has a sound medical basis, involving changes in the body's mood centers" associated with exposure to light.[18] Rosenthal later identified a form of reverse SAD which some experience in the summer season.[26]


  • Rosenthal, Norman (1989). Seasonal Affective Disorders and Phototherapy. New York: Guilford Press. p. 350. ISBN 0898627419.
  • Rosenthal, Norman (1993). Seasons of the Mind: Why You Get the Winter Blues and What You Can Do About It. Bantam Books. ISBN 0553053957.
  • Rosenthal, Norman; co-authored with D.A.Oren, W. Reich and T.A. Wehr (1993). How to Beat Jet Lag. New York: Henry Holt & Company Inc. p. 141. ISBN 0805026878.
  • Rosenthal, Norman (1993). Winter Blues. New York: Guilford Press. p. 372. ISBN 1593851162.
  • Rosenthal, Norman (1998). St. John's Wort: The Herbal Way to Feeling Good. New York: Harper Collins. ISBN 0060183829.
  • Rosenthal, Norman (2002). The Emotional Revolution: How the New Science of Feeling Can Transform Your Life. New York: Citadel. ISBN 080652295X.
  • Rosenthal, Norman (2011). Transcendence: Healing and Transformation Through Transcendental Meditation. New York: Hay House UK Ltd. p. 320. ISBN 1848507755.
  • Rosenthal, Norman (2013). The Gift of Adversity: The Unexpected Benefits of Life's Difficulties, Setbacks, and Imperfections. New York: Tarcher. ISBN 0399168850.
  • Rosenthal, Norman (2016). Super Mind: How to Boost Performance and Live a Richer and Happier Life Through Transcendental Meditation. New York: Tarcher. p. 320. ISBN 0399174745.


  1. ^ a b c Rosenthal, Norman. Self Published Bio.[1], retrieved July 2011
  2. ^ a b c d e Rosenthal, Norman. Penguin Group. (2011). Transcendence: Healing and Transformation through Transcendental Meditation, liner notes and pp 3-7
  3. ^ Rosenthal, Norman. Guilford Press (2006). Winter Blues 6th Edition, pages 5-7
  4. ^ a b Rosenthal, Norman. May 29, 2011. Could Transcendental Meditation Help Veterans Suffering From Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder? Fox News [2] Retrieved October 2011
  5. ^ a b Dullea, Geoirgia. December 19, 1985. Shedding Light on the Dark Day Blues New York Times [3] Retrieved October 2011
  6. ^ Freitag, Michael. March 22, 1989. Spring Fever Down to a Science New York Times [4] Retrieved July 2011
  7. ^ SLTBR web site, May 17, 1999, SLTBR Symposium in Honor of the Contributions of Norman E. Rosenthal to the NIMH [5] Retrieved October 2011
  8. ^ Rosenthal, Norman (2011). Transcendence: Healing and Transformation through Transcendental Meditation. New York: Tarcher/Penguin. pp. 6–8. ISBN 978-1-58542-873-1.
  9. ^ Publishers Weekly Best Sellers. ABC News. June 10, 2011 [6] Retrieved July 2011
  10. ^ Lynch, David. July 13, 2011 A Transcendental Cure for Post-Traumatic Stress Wall Street Journal. [7] Retrieved October 2011
  11. ^ Fisher, Christopher. June 3, 2011. Veterans Show 50 Percent Reduction In PTSD Symptoms After 8 Weeks Of Transcendental Meditation Behavioral Medicine Report [8] Retrieved July 2011
  12. ^ Mechcatie, E. July 15, 2006 "SAD indication approved for antidepressant" OB/GYN News
  13. ^ Rabin, Rani Caryn (November 14, 2011)Light boxes may help melt those winter blues New York Times Retrieved Dec 5 2011
  14. ^ Clark, Linda (December 4, 2011) Feeling sad its not your fault Metro Retrieved December 5, 2011
  15. ^ Shorter Days Bring Gloom To Those With SAD USA Today Retrieved Dec 5 2011)
  16. ^ Borchard, Terese. June 2011. Transcendental Meditation: What Is It and How Does It Work? Psych Central [9] Retrieved July 2011
  17. ^ a b Brody, Jane E. Dec 29, 1993 NY Times, Health Scientists Find Ways to Reset Biological Clocks in Dim Winter [10] Retrieved July 2011
  18. ^ a b Sussman, Paul. November 25, 2007. Insiders Guide: Season Affective Disorder. CNN "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-09-17. Retrieved 2011-07-18.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link) Retrieved July 2011
  19. ^ Cosgrove, Chris. January 3, 2000.The Blue Season CNN "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-10-24. Retrieved 2011-07-18.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link) Retrieved July 2011
  20. ^ a b Rosenthal, Norman (2005). Winter Blues: Third Edition. New York: Guilford Press
  21. ^ Ega, Timothy P. December 21, 1987, Shining A Light On Winter Blahs Sports Illustrated [11] Retrieved July 201
  22. ^ Brody Jane E. December 5, 2006 Getting a Grip on the Winter Blues New York Times [12] Retrieved July 2011
  23. ^ Lewy A, Wehr TA, Goodwin FK, Newsome DA, Markey SP (1980) Light suppresses melatonin secretion in humans Science. Dec 12;210(4475):1267-9.
  24. ^ Rosenthal NE, Lewy AJ, Wehr TA, Kern HE, Goodwin FK: (1983) Seasonal cycling in a bipolar patient Psychiatry Research, 8: 25-31
  25. ^ Rosenthal NE, Sack DA, Gillin JC, Lewy AJ, Goodwin FK, Davenport Y, Mueller PS, Newsome DA, Wehr TA (1984) Seasonal affective disorder: A description of the syndrome and preliminary findings with light therapy Archives of General Psychiatry, 41: 72-80
  26. ^ a b Kotz, Deborah. July 8, 2011 Dealing with summer depression (Boston Globe) [13] Retrieved Oct 2011

External links[edit]