[Paleopsych] NYT: Vital Signs: Therapy: Lighting Up a Life, Literally

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Tue Apr 19 13:18:55 UTC 2005

Vital Signs: Therapy: Lighting Up a Life, Literally

    Exposure to bright artificial light can relieve some cases of
    depression as effectively as psychotherapy or antidepressant
    medication, new research suggests.

    In a statistical review of 20 rigorously designed studies, researchers
    found strong evidence that exposure to artificial broad-spectrum light
    was a good treatment not only for seasonal affective disorder, in
    which people become more depressed in the darker days of winter, but
    for the more common nonseasonal depression. The review appears in the
    April issue of The American Journal of Psychiatry.

    Dr. Robert N. Golden, professor and chairman of psychiatry at the
    University of North Carolina School of Medicine and the lead author,
    said he was once skeptical of such treatments.

    "I noticed that there were a lot of really bad studies being
    published" that claimed good results based on weak evidence, Dr.
    Golden said. "But when you throw out the bad studies and look at the
    good ones, the data are actually very impressive."

    Light therapy usually involves sitting in front of white fluorescent
    lights with eyes open but not looking directly at the light source.
    Treatment time varies from 15 minutes to 90 minutes a day.

    Dawn simulation, a variation of the treatment, recreates the timing
    and intensity of a normal sunrise each morning. Symptoms can start to
    diminish within weeks.

    Dr. Golden warns that the studies have not been large and that the
    standards for what constitutes exactly the right exposure have not yet
    been established.

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