A preliminary study found that blue light therapy may decrease depression and other concussion symptoms. The individuals in the study had a mild traumatic brain injury.
The study found that the people who received blue light therapy had lower scores on a test of depression (Beck Depression Inventory) than those who received the placebo light therapy.
Raw depression scores showed a significant decline only in the blue light group. The people in that group improved by 22% on the test of depression compared to a 4% worsening in mood for those in the placebo group.
The improvement in depression scores among the blue light group was linked to improvements in other concussion symptoms such as sleep disturbance, fatigue, concentration, restlessness, and irritability, while there was no such relationship for the people in the placebo group.
The double-blind, randomized study involved 35 people, average age 26 years, who were diagnosed with concussion within the past 18 months. The participants used a tabletop device that shines bright light for 30 minutes each morning for 6 weeks; 17 participants received blue light therapy, and 18 received a placebo amber light therapy.
At the beginning and the end of the study, both groups completed tests to measure depression and other concussion symptoms such as headache, fatigue, and problems with sleep, memory, and concentration.
“Patients with mild traumatic brain injury, like concussion, often develop persistent problems associated with sleep, concentration, and depression,” said William D. Killgore, PhD, University of Arizona College of Medicine. “Morning blue light exposure has been shown to lead to improved circadian rhythm of the body’s sleep-wake cycle, which is linked to improved sleep, better mood, and daytime alertness. These results reinforce that blue light therapy may be an effective, nondrug treatment for concussion and that improvements in depression may result in improvement in both mental and physical concussion symptoms, and thus quality of life.”
The study results will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology 72nd Annual Meeting in Toronto, Canada, April 25 - May 1, 2020.
Michelle L. Dougherty, MD, FAES, FAAN
Chen Zhao, MD; Claire Flaherty, PhD; Paul J. Eslinger, PhD; and Krishnankutty Sathian, MBBS, PhD
Audrius V. Plioplys, MD