Feeling blue? Try red.

light

Researchers have found that a depressed mood can be lifted with a change of color. In particular, the color of a nighttime light could modify your mood.

Researchers from Ohio State University gave hamsters differently colored light to live under. Blue light brought out the worst response against mood-related measures. White light proved to be less severe but similar in its effect. Finally, red light produced fewer signs of depression. The only light scenario that produced better behavior was total darkness.

Studying the effects of colored light

For the study, researchers exposed the hamsters to four weeks each of the four different lights. The researchers checked for depression-like symptoms, including food and water consumption changes when compared to their normal intake.

The researchers also analyzed the hippocampus area of the brain to check the dendritic spines, the parts of neurons that transmit messages. Depression is usually indicated by dendritic spines with lowered density. Hamsters that were exposed to the blue and white light had more dense dendrites and were consuming less sugar-water – both accepted indicators of depression.

“In nearly every measure we had, hamsters exposed to blue light were the worst off, followed by those exposed to white light,” explain Prof. Randy Nelson, co-author of the study. “While total darkness was best, red light was not nearly as bad as the other wavelengths we studied.”

Implications for night-shift workers

These findings could have an impact on people who work night shifts and are exposed to artificial blue light during that time.

“Light at night may result in parts of the brain regulating mood-receiving signals during times of the day when they shouldn’t,” explained Tracy Bedrosian, co-author of the study. “This may be why light at night seems to be linked to depression in some people.”

According to Nelson, the findings “suggest that if we could use red light when appropriate for night-shift workers, it may not have some of the negative effects on their health that white light does.”

Source: MedicalNewsToday, The Journal of Neuroscience

 
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