Pineal gland volume assessed by MRI and its correlation with 6-sulfatoxymelatonin levels among older men

Lara G. Sigurdardottir, Sarah C. Markt, Sigurdur Sigurdsson, Thor Aspelund, Katja Fall, Eva Schernhammer, Jennifer R. Rider, Lenore Launer, Tamara Harris, Meir J. Stampfer, Vilmundur Gudnason, Charles A. Czeisler, Steven W. Lockley, Unnur A. Valdimarsdottir, Lorelei A. Mucci

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


The pineal gland produces the hormone melatonin, and its volume may influence melatonin levels. We describe an innovative method for estimating pineal volume in humans and present the association of pineal parenchyma volume with levels of the primary melatonin metabolite, 6-sulfatoxymelatonin. We selected a random sample of 122 older Icelandic men nested within the AGES-Reykjavik cohort and measured their total pineal volume, their parenchyma volume, and the extent of calcification and cysts. For volume estimations we used manual segmentation of magnetic resonance images in the axial plane with simultaneous side-by-side view of the sagittal and coronal plane. We used multivariable adjusted linear regression models to estimate the association of pineal parenchyma volume and baseline characteristics, including 6-sulfatoxymelatonin levels. We used logistic regression to test for differences in first morning urinary 6-sulfatoxymelatonin levels among men with or without cystic or calcified glands. The pineal glands varied in volume, shape, and composition. Cysts were present in 59% of the glands and calcifications in 21%. The mean total pineal volume measured 207 mm3 (range 65-536 mm3) and parenchyma volume 178 mm3 (range 65-503 mm3). In multivariable-adjusted models, pineal parenchyma volume was positively correlated with 6-sulfatoxymelatonin levels (β = 0.52, p < 0.001). Levels of 6-sulfatoxymelatonin did not differ significantly by presence of cysts or calcification. By using an innovative method for pineal assessment, we found pineal parenchyma volume to be positively correlated with 6-sulfatoxymelatonin levels, in line with other recent studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)461-469
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Biological Rhythms
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • MRI
  • circadian
  • melatonin
  • pineal
  • sleep


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