A group of Dutch researchers clinically tested the effect that long exposure to bright light and melatonin have on the functioning of dementia patients. They say that the light produces positive effects similar to common drugs taken by such patients.
“On the whole, light treatment could have clinically beneficial effects,” the authors said in the paper. “The long- term application of whole-day bright light did not have adverse effects, on the contrary, and could be considered for use in care facilities for elderly individuals with dementia.”
The ceiling-mounted lights, more than three times brighter than those the study used for comparison, also reduced depression 19 percent. Moreover, the researchers found that melatonin, a hormone, improved sleep and that the lights reduced melatonin’s side effects.
From the article abstract in JAMA:
Light attenuated cognitive deterioration by a mean of 0.9 points (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.04-1.71) on the Mini-Mental State Examination or a relative 5%. Light also ameliorated depressive symptoms by 1.5 points (95% CI, 0.24-2.70) on the Cornell Scale for Depression in Dementia or a relative 19%, and attenuated the increase in functional limitations over time by 1.8 points per year (95% CI, 0.61-2.92) on the nurse-informant activities of daily living scale or a relative 53% difference.
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Abstract: Effect of Bright Light and Melatonin on Cognitive and Noncognitive Function in Elderly Residents of Group Care Facilities JAMA. 2008;299(22):2642-2655.
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