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How does lighting affect our brain activity?

How does lighting affect our brain activity
The Lighting Research Center in New York is investigating the alerting effects of light by measuring brain activities under different light exposures using electroencephalogram (EEG) and through various performance tests done on a computer.

TOP scientists this week launched a major probe into how lighting affects our brain activity.

The Lighting Research Center in New York is investigating the alerting effects of light by measuring brain activities under different light exposures using electroencephalogram (EEG) and through various performance tests done on a computer.

The institute has recruited paid participants whose brains will be monitored. The candidates must have had regular bed times, and must go to sleep no later than 11pm and rise no later than 8am in the morning.

The LRC laboratory
The LRC laboratory which is being used for the brain activity experiments. Participants are being asked to perform tests on computers during the study.

Additionally, they must not have a major health problem, be colourblind or are taking any prescription medication, except for birth control pills.

Crucially for a test on circadian rhythms, they have not been allowed to join the study if they will be travelling more than one time zone the week before or during the weeks of the experiment.

They have been asked to wear an actigraph, a wrist-worn unit which measures the gross motor activity of a person and light exposure.

The participants – who will be paid US$300 (£230) for the four week of the probe – must also keep a sleep log for the weeks of the study which must have started one week before the study began. If their actigraph data shows that they have not followed the sleep schedule, they will not be allowed to continue in the study.

During the sessions at the LRC they will have their EEG data recorded and will complete several performance tests on a computer.

They have been reassured that EEG is a non-invasive, safe procedure which merely records their brain activities.

The LRC, which is based at the at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, is the leading body conducting research into the effects of lighting on our health and wellbeing.

Recently it published the latest in its series of analyses exploring how light impacts alertness during the day and the quality of sleep.

It discovered that a combination of blue light in the morning and red light in the afternoon is best for keeping office workers alert.

The study tested a special luminaire developed by the LRC to help set the sleep-wake cycle and alertness of clerical employees.

Nineteen participants from three U.S. Department of State office buildings in Washington, D.C., completed the three-week study.