Mood variability during adolescent development and its relation to sleep and brain development

Yara J. Toenders*, Renske van der Cruijsen, Jana Runze, Suzanne van de Groep, Lara Wierenga, Eveline A. Crone

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Mood swings, or mood variability, are associated with negative mental health outcomes. Since adolescence is a time when mood disorder onset peaks, mood variability during this time is of significant interest. Understanding biological factors that might be associated with mood variability, such as sleep and structural brain development, could elucidate the mechanisms underlying mood and anxiety disorders. Data from the longitudinal Leiden self-concept study (N = 191) over 5 yearly timepoints was used to study the association between sleep, brain structure, and mood variability in healthy adolescents aged 11–21 at baseline in this pre-registered study. Sleep was measured both objectively, using actigraphy, as well as subjectively, using a daily diary self-report. Negative mood variability was defined as day-to-day negative mood swings over a period of 5 days after an MRI scan. It was found that negative mood variability peaked in mid-adolescence in females while it linearly increased in males, and average negative mood showed a similar pattern. Sleep duration (subjective and objective) generally decreased throughout adolescence, with a larger decrease in males. Mood variability was not associated with sleep, but average negative mood was associated with lower self-reported energy. In addition, higher thickness in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC) compared to same-age peers, suggesting a delayed thinning process, was associated with higher negative mood variability in early and mid-adolescence. Together, this study provides an insight into the development of mood variability and its association with brain structure.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8537
Number of pages12
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 12 Apr 2024

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