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Researchers developing device to predict proper light exposure for human health
Date:9/5/2007

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The advent of electricity has dramatically changed our light and dark exposure patterns, and indoor lighting can be insufficient to stimulate the circadian clock, Rea said. Exposure to indoor light sources during the night, including computer screens, may be too bright or seen for too long, to properly set the timing of the circadian clock. These disruptions can desynchronize the circadian rhythm from the solar daytime/nighttime cycle, leading to sleep problems and psychosocial stress such as mood and eating disorders, depression, and possibly immune deficiencies.

Outdoor light levels during the day even under cloud cover or during the winter are of much higher levels than those found in windowless, electrically illuminated buildings, and this absence of suitable light may induce circadian darkness, Rea said. If an individuals circadian light intake is deficient during waking hours, our device will be able to reliably predict the light therapy necessary to resynchronize the circadian phase with the solar day.

Such treatments could range from standing outside for 15 minutes to sitting in front of a light box fitted with blue LEDs for a certain amount of time, says Rea.

Rea and his colleague Mariana Figueiro, assistant professor in the LRC and co-PI on the project, will collaborate with scientists from Brown and Yale universities on a study to uncover participants baseline circadian rhythms by collecting information regarding each persons sleeping and waking cycles, light intake, and fluctuations in sleep quality, stress markers, and gene expression, which are all controlled by the circadian rhythm. Then, using light therapy treatment, the team will attempt to shift each participants circadian phase.

The results of the study will provide scientists in the LRC with the information they need to determine the level of accuracy required for the new device to accurately predict light-induced shifting of the circadian phase, acco
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Contact: Amber Cleveland
clevea@rpi.edu
518-276-2146
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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