Treatment of Seasonal Affective Disorder with Green Light and Red Light

Department of Neurology, Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia.
American Journal of Psychiatry (Impact Factor: 12.3). 05/1991; 148(4):509-11.
Source: PubMed


This study sought to determine whether an equal photon density of green light is superior to red light in treating seasonal affective disorder.
After recruitment through the media, 20 outpatients with seasonal affective disorder participated in a balanced-order crossover trial of 1 week of green light therapy compared with 1 week of red light therapy. Each treatment consisted of 2 hours of daily light treatment at home in the early morning. Ultraviolet light was excluded from both treatment conditions. The photon densities of the two treatments (2.3 x 10(15) photons/sec per cm2) were similar to those used in previous studies of therapy with 2500-lux white light. Fourteen patients completed the study. At least 1 week separated each treatment period to allow time for relapse. Effectiveness of treatment was assessed by analysis of variance of changes in ratings on the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression.
Although patients' expectations of the two treatments were similar, green light induced greater antidepressant effects than red light. A Sequence by Color interaction was also demonstrated.
Green light provides a treatment effect superior to that of red light and similar to that seen in previous studies with white light. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that retinal photoreceptors mediate the antidepressant response in seasonal affective disorder. Identifying optimal wavelengths for light treatment is important in optimizing phototherapy efficacy.

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    • "The evening light, when given first, was comparable to morning light given first (Rafferty et al. 1990). Similarly, red light was almost as powerful an antidepressant as green light when it was the first treatment, while green light given first was superior to second treatment with red light (Oren et al. 1991). One explanation for these facts is the differential response of patients' psychology to the order of the optimal and less attractive treatment. "
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    ABSTRACT: Although bright light treatment may alleviate the symptoms of winter depression, it still remains to be clarified whether chronobiological mechanisms are involved in this antidepressant response. We studied the therapeutic action of bright light in 61 women with and 36 women without winter depression at the medical academic hospital near Novosibirsk (55 degrees North). Bright light was administered with cool-white incandescent lamp for seven days, two hours daily. The treatment started from either 8:00 (n = 29 patients and 16 controls) or 16:00 (n = 24 and 14, respectively) or 18:00 (n = 8 and 6, respectively). The subsets of bright light-treated subjects were then restudied in wintertime before and after one-week vacation in Firuza resort (south of Turkmeniya, 38 degrees North) (n = 19 and 0, respectively), in summertime (n = 42 and 18, respectively) and in the next winter before and after a week 30-min exposure in the morning hours to dim red light emitting ''Light Cap'' (n = 9 and 0, respectively). The results suggest that, in controls, mood slightly but statistically significantly improved after light treatment and in summer. In patients, the improvement of mood after one week of bright light was comparable with the effects of such ''natural'' treatments as trips south and transition from winter to summer seasons. Although next winter response to 0.5-h dim light was clinically significant, it was significantly worse compared to the previous response to 2-h bright light. Our therapeutic results indicate that, despite the different potential phase-shifting effect of bright light administered in the morning and in the second half of the day, the responses to all treatments are equally beneficial. This finding provides evidence against the view that circadian phase shifts are the key to the pathogenesis of winter depression and efficacy of light therapy. Although several different physiological effects of light therapy might be involved in the antidepressant response, none of them seems to be of more importance compared to psychological components of this response. Ours and earlier published reports on the independence of beneficial action of bright light from treatment timing support the suggestion that, in the open investigational trials, the placebo effect accounts for a large portion of the antidepressant response. We also reviewed several facts pointing to the close dependence of antidepressant effects of non-drug therapy upon patients' expectations and researchers' enthusiasm. In sum, unlike patients' chronobiology, their psychology seems to be most powerful mediator of the clinical response to bright light.
    Biological Rhythm Research 12/2005; 36(5). DOI:10.1080/09291010500218506 · 0.92 Impact Factor
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    • "Bright white light has been shown to suppress melatonin, shift circadian rhythms and alleviate depression. Evidence suggests that green light may have effects similar to those of white light but could be more efficient [1-4] "
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    ABSTRACT: Bright white light has been successfully used for the treatment of depression. There is interest in identifying which spectral colors of light are the most efficient in the treatment of depression. It is theorized that green light could decrease the intensity duration of exposure needed. Late Wake Treatment (LWT), sleep deprivation for the last half of one night, is associated with rapid mood improvement which has been sustained by light treatment. Because spectral responsiveness may differ by age, we examined whether green light would provide efficient antidepressant treatment in an elder age group. We contrasted one hour of bright green light (1,200 Lux) and one hour of dim red light placebo (<10 Lux) in a randomized treatment trial with depressed elders. Participants were observed in their homes with mood scales, wrist actigraphy and light monitoring. On the day prior to beginning treatment, the participants self-administered LWT. The protocol was completed by 33 subjects who were 59 to 80 years old. Mood improved on average 23% for all subjects, but there were no significant statistical differences between treatment and placebo groups. There were negligible adverse reactions to the bright green light, which was well tolerated. Bright green light was not shown to have an antidepressant effect in the age group of this study, but a larger trial with brighter green light might be of value.
    BMC Psychiatry 11/2005; 5(1):42. DOI:10.1186/1471-244X-5-42 · 2.21 Impact Factor
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    • "Oren et al26 compared green light and red light, and found that green light induced greater antidepressant effects than red light. Stewart et al,27 however, observed that white light was more effective than green light in reducing endogenous symptoms, but not the atypical symptoms characteristic of winter depression. "
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    ABSTRACT: In 1981, seven patients with nonseasonal depression were treated with bright white light in 1982, bright artificial light was used to treat a manic-depressive patient with a seasonal mood cycle. In the last 20 years, a plethora of studies have further defined the depressive populations, who are responsive to light treatment; the optimal timing, intensity, spectral frequency, and duration of treatment; its comparison with other pharmacological interventions; predictors of response; side-effect profiles; viable placebo-control conditions; alternative devices and forms of administration; potential mechanisms and anatomical pathways mediating light's physiological effects; and its application to other disorders and subsyndromaI states. These studies have been conducted across multiple countries with surprisingly consistent results. Further work is needed, as highlighted in this review, to clarify the specific mechanism of action in subtypes of depressive disorders and differential age and gender effects. Although the majority of work in this area is relatively new, it behooves the reader to remember that Solomon, almost 3000 years ago, wrote in Ecclesiastes: "Truly the light is sweet and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun" (11:7).
    Dialogues in clinical neuroscience 12/2003; 5(4):353-65.
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