Yale Researcher Tests New Light Therapy for Treating Winter Seasonal Depression
A new therapy for seasonal affective disorder (SAD) that delivers treatment through a light wrapped around a patient’s knee is being tested by Yale researcher Dan Oren, M.D., associate professor of psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine.
Oren, an expert in SAD, which affects about 20 million Americans each year, is seeking to improve upon the current light therapy for winter depression. He will test the effectiveness of the new Apollo Light Systems Skin Light Band in treating SAD.
Shorter hours of daylight have been shown to be a factor in an increased incidence of depression. The current treatment for winter depression includes light box therapy, in which the patient sits under bright lamps for a specified amount of time each day.
Conventional light box therapy for winter seasonal depression is an effective, although somewhat cumbersome treatment, Oren said, because it requires patients to remain in a fixed location for a significant time period.
“Development of a less cumbersome treatment will lead to more comfort and an increased number of patients who are willing to comply with the treatment,” said Oren. “Winter seasonal depression is rarely life-threatening and many patients choose to avoid treatment altogether rather than take antidepressant medications, or choose to avoid using conventional light box therapy.”
The Light Band is not yet available commercially. It uses novel light-emitting diode (LED) technology to deliver light of various wavelengths and intensities without emitting any heat directly to the skin. Fitting like a loose ace bandage, it wraps gently around the skin behind the knee and has no known side effects.
For those who have not been diagnosed with SAD but still feel a slight case of the blues, Oren offers the following tips that can improve mood at home:
-Take walks during the day to get some sun
-Exercise daily, if possible
-Contact your physician when home remedies do not do the job.
Oren’s study is supported by a National Institutes of Health Small Business grant to Apollo Light Systems and Yale, that is specifically designed to encourage cooperative research efforts between universities and the private sector.
The trials will take place at the Yale School of Medicine Affective Disorders Clinic, located at the VA Connecticut Healthcare System in West Haven, Conn., but the program is open to non-veterans as well as veterans.
Oren is seeking 20 subjects to test the Light Band. The subjects must be between the ages of 7 and 65 and have winter seasonal depression. Potential subjects are encouraged to contact the research program at (203) 937-4862 for more detailed information.