Blue light lowers depression for concussion sufferers in early study
A small but promising study carried out at University of Arizona has uncovered some interesting possibilities around treatment for common concussion symptoms. The researchers found that by subjecting people with a mild brain injury to a dose of blue light each morning, they could help to reduce some of its typical side effects such as depression and problems with sleep.
There is quite a bit of scientific literature exploring the detrimental effects of blue light emanating from modern devices, largely to do with a disruption of our circadian rhythms. Conversely, there are a number of technologies and research projects looking to harness blue light for good, including to tackle psoriasis, high blood pressure and kill off bacteria that causes infections in skin and soft tissues.
In a similar vein, the University of Arizona researchers drew up an experiment to see how blue light could be of benefit to sufferers of concussion and other mild traumatic brain injuries. The preliminary study involved 35 subjects with an average age of 26, with all experiencing a concussion within the past 18 months.
All used a tabletop device to emit a bright light for half an hour each morning, over a period of six weeks. For 17 of those subjects, the bright light they were exposed to was blue, while the other 18 received amber light as a placebo.
At both the outset end endpoint of the study, all participants completed tests to assess different symptoms of their concussions, including depression, headaches, fatigue and trouble with sleep, memory and concentration.
This revealed that those undergoing the blue light therapy experienced a "significant" decline, with this group improving by an average of 22 percent on the depression test, known as the Beck Depression Inventory. These improved scores were linked to relief from other symptoms including sleep disturbance, fatigue, concentration, restlessness, and irritability. Meanwhile the placebo group exhibited only a four percent worsening in mood, according to the researchers.
The scientists point to the very small sample size as an obvious limitation of the study, along with the fact that not all subjects had been diagnosed with clinical depression, a more severe from of the condition. But still, they are enthused by these promising early results, and hopeful that the technique could lead to new treatment options for sufferers of mild traumatic brain injuries.
“These results reinforce that blue light therapy may be an effective, non-drug treatment for concussion and that improvements in depression may result in improvement in both mental and physical concussion symptoms, and thus quality of life,” says study author William D. Killgore. “Limitations notwithstanding, the findings give a promising treatment approach to those suffering from mood disturbances following a concussion.”
The researchers presented the study at the American Academy of Neurology's 72nd Annual Meeting in Toronto, Canada last week. An abstract can be found here.
Source: American Academy of Neurology