Since mapping the human genome in 2000, scientists have begun to piece together the complicated interaction of light, the retina, and the production of hormones, that together make up the complex feelings that we call "mood".

Using this new knowledge, our scientists have been able to generate a sufficient number of photons, with the right spectral distribution (color), and package it all within an affordable, compact, portable device that operates from any USB port.

BACKGROUND
For tens of thousands of years, humans in temperate climate zones have been active during the daylight hours and restful at night. They have worked long hours during the light of the summer months, and been more sedentary hibernators during the winter.

In modern times, few of us work outdoors, nor do we have the luxury of hibernating in the winter. Our work environments are significantly dimmer than outdoor lighting, and they do not provide the same spectrum of light. Short days and significant cloud cover further hamper the ability of our hormone regulatory networks to do their job properly.

The most commonly diagnosed mood disorder is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and, according to the National Institute of Health (NIH), SAD affects nearly 36 million Americans and about an equal number of Europeans. SAD is a depressive disorder initiated by a reduction in the amount and type of light hitting the retina, and typically occurs during the winter months. According to the American Psychiatric Association, this causes a biochemical imbalance of two key hormones, serotonin and melatonin. In simple terms, the brain does not produce enough serotonin, which results in the symptoms of depression. At the same time the brain overproduces melatonin, sometimes referred to as the 'hibernation hormone', which tends to make us lethargic and crave carbohydrates.

SAD is uncommon in latitudes where the daylight hours are long, constant throughout the year, and extremely bright. The farther one lives from the equator, the more likely they will develop SAD. In extreme northern latitudes, or where cloudy conditions persist, significant percentages of the population have been diagnosed with this condition.

In addition to SAD, another 40 million Americans suffer from sleep disorders, most of which stem from Circadian Rhythm disorders. Circadian Rhythm is a simplified term for the natural daily ebb and flow of certain hormones, primarily serotonin and melatonin. Numerous clinical studies have shown that when our Circadian Rhythm is in sync with natural cycles, we sleep better, we eat better (and more regularly), and we experience higher level of emotional stability. Illness, night shift work, jet lag, and winter light deprivation can disrupt our Circadian Rhythm, causing symptoms from simple daytime drowsiness to more serious cases of insomnia, depression and even sexual dysfunction.

SOLUTION
Within the past 20 years, scientists discovered that many of our key "mood" hormones are actually regulated by light. In fact, the first clinical demonstration of light regulated hormone production was performed at the National Institute of Mental Health in the 1980's. Today, light therapy is prescribed by psychiatrists, psychologists and family doctors, and is considered the most effective non-pharmaceutical treatment for SAD.

Light therapy is a very effective treatment because it treats one of the primary causes of depression - low serotonin levels in the brain. Most antidepressant drugs help boost serotonin levels in the brain, not by creating more serotonin, but by blocking reabsorption (reuptake) of free serotonin in the brain. Blocking absorption of serotonin increases serotonin levels in the brain, and increased serotonin levels are directly related to improved mood, and reduced anxiety and depression. Serotonin levels also have direct effects on appetite, sleep and general metabolism. These drugs form a class of antidepressants called Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) and increase serotonin levels by reducing absorption - they do nothing to create more serotonin.

SEROTONIN PRODUCTION
Light therapy works by producing more serotonin in the brain. You cannot increase serotonin levels in the brain through diet - it must be manufacture in the brain. And this complicated manufacturing process is regulated by the amount and type of light that interacts with your retinas.

A great deal of research has been performed over the past two decades, focusing specifically on the chemical processes responsible for the production of serotonin. In 2002 the prestigious journal Science announced that a breakthrough discovery had been made. A new set of light sensitive receptors in the eye was discovered, and surprisingly, these receptors are not used for vision. These intrinsically photosensitive Retinal Ganglion Cells (ipRGCs), found in all vertebrates, were eventually linked directly to the production of serotonin, and the regulation of melatonin and other hormones.

What is exciting about this research is that these receptors are separate from those that we use for vision. In fact, they tend to be located in the lower portion of the eyeball, and are primarily sensitive to blue light. This location suggests that they tend to sample the amount of blue light in the sky, well above our normal field of view. This may suggest a lot about how our human systems regulate themselves through seasonal variations, and why we tend to struggle in the darkness of winter.

 

In fact, researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) have shown that blue light, positioned above the field of view, provides significantly superior light therapy results in clinical environments as compared to full spectrum light (located in any position).

And these ipRGC receptors do more than just regulate serotonin production. They also control the release of a number of other hormones, and they do it in a smooth cyclical manner that we call our 'circadian rhythm'. One of the major discoveries made during circadian rhythm research was that the body needs different hormones at different times of the day. Certain hormones such as melatonin are released to help us slow down, withdraw, and go to sleep. Other hormones such as serotonin are not needed at night, but are released during the day. Our internal "clock" uses light signals to know when to produce the active energetic hormones, and when to produce the nighttime hormones.

All of these scientific discoveries provided our engineers with the necessary information required to to build a sophisticated new product that can help us produce more serotonin in the brain, and help us reset our internal clock. Which means that we have a natural way in which to improve our daily mood, and even potentially regulate our circadian rhythm. This can be especially helpful when we travel through multiple time zones and experience what we call "jet lag", or even help us adjust to/from daylight savings time.

The Syrcadian Blue light therapy unit has been specifically designed to stimulate the ipRGC receptors to maximize therapeutic activity, while minimizing visual discomfort. To do this, the Syrcadian Blue device provides high intensity photons at the precise blue wavelengths required to activate the ipRGC receptors (Cirtopic response), while minimizing response of the rods and cones used for normal vision (Photopic response).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In this manner, the Syrcadian Blue light therapy unit provides maximum therapeutic intensity, while minimizing the normal side effects experienced with high brightness, full spectrum light therapy. Full spectrum side effects include blinding glare, headaches, dizziness, and even nausea (all of which add to reduced ongoing patient compliance).

Because of the above science, the Syrcadian Blue light therapy unit is able to provide the equivalent of nearly 15,000 lux of photonic energy, while providing less than 1500 lux worth of the visual energy - energy that does little more than cause blinding glare.

This is a very important issue, because there are a lot of good light therapy devices on the market, and most all of them will provide the therapeutic activity described. But the number one reason why most of these devices do not work for patients has nothing to do with the technology - it has to do with patient compliance. Patients do not want to stare at bright lights because they are blinding and cause headaches. And patients do not tend to stick with a daily regimen that requires them to sit in front of light boxes for two hours every day - they just don't comply over long periods.

These are the primary two issues that our engineers set out to solve. Make a light therapy device that excels at serotonin production, is easy on the eyes, and that can be employed in such a way that patients can easily get into a daily habit that they can comply with for months at a time. The Syrcadian Blue is the result of those efforts.