University of New Mexico researchers and their colleagues from the LESA Center have demonstrated a new technology for gauging the effectiveness of light therapy to synchronize human circadian rhythms as a potential treatment for insomnia, mood disorders and other health problems. In a report published online in the IEEE Journal of Translational Engineering in Health and Medicine (and set to lead the journal’s December issue), the team reported on a pilot study using the Smart Lighting Clinical Testbed at UNM Hospital. The lighting, sensing and control systems used were based on a system first installed in the Smart Conference Room Testbed at the LESA Center.
By deliberately altering particular wavelengths of light emitted by special LED lighting fixtures, the researchers were able to advance the participants’ sleep onset over the course of four days and nights spent in the hospital room, which is also equipped with sophisticated sensors that detect an occupant’s movements.
Meeko Oishi, PhD, associate professor in the UNM Department of Electrical and Computer Engineeringpartnered with Lee K. Brown, MD, professor in UNM’s Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine, and director of the UNM Sleep Disorders Center, in creating the Testbed at UNMH. To test the technology, Brown and Oishi collaborated with research colleagues from LESA.
Scientists know that certain wavelengths of blue light can alter human circadian rhythms – the 24-hour “body clock” that drives our sleep/wake cycle, metabolism and many other physiological processes. In this pilot study, patients were exposed to specific wavelengths and intensities of light to help with a delayed sleep-wake phase (night owls) or advanced sleep-wake phase (often a problem for the elderly or those with dementia).
Properly controlled lighting can also alleviate depression, as well as improve productivity, co
gnitive functioning and alertness. Precision in the timing and intensity of light exposure is key, but until now there have been few clinical research facil
ities that can study the effects of extended lighting regimens lasting days to weeks.
Advances in LED technology have enabled design of lighting systems that precisely control the range of colors used to make white light. The Smart Lighting Clinical Testbed uses LESA’s lighting and sensor technologies, which provide customized lighting profiles and continuous tracking of patient movements (while preserving absolute privacy) in an inpatient hospital room. The UNM Smart Lighting Clinical Testbed uses color-tunable lighting from LESA industry member Telelumen that look like standard hospital room ceiling fixtures. The room sensors can track movement and reflected light intensity without the use of cameras, so no video images a
In the pilot study, Thomas Jefferson University circadian rhythm experts designed specialized lighting programs calculated to shift the circadian phase of test subjects over the four-day span. The researchers collected the participants’ saliva to measure melatonin levels, a marker for a person’s circadian phase. The test subjects also wore actigraphs, wristwatch-like devices that recorded their body movements and could be analyzed as a way to estimate circadian phase. For instance, an actigraphy sensor might determine that the subject has likely dozed off during the day, and the system would adjust the lighting spectrum and intensity to promote wakefulness.
LESA researchers are exploring the use of wearable biometric devices to study relationships between lighting and patient circadian rhythms. Together with the other Testbed sensors, these tools could lead to personalized lighting treatment for various disorders without hospitalization.
For information and availability of the Smart Lighting Clinical Testbed at UNM (Albuquerque, NM) the Hospital Lighting Testbed at TJU (Philadelphia, PA), or the Smart Conference Room Testbed at RPI (Troy, NY), contact Leah Scott at firstname.lastname@example.org or 518-276-4010. Learn more about LESA’s Human Centric Lighting and Healthy Environments initaitives.
About the Lighting Enabled Systems & Applications (LESA) Center
The Lighting Enabled Systems & Applications (LESA) Center is an interdisciplinary, multi-university center developing “Systems that Think™”. It engages faculty members, research staff, graduate and undergraduate students and industry members to work on research leading to intelligent systems with adaptive and controllable properties that will change the way society lives and works. The Center joins academia, industry and government in partnership to produce transformational engineered systems, along with highly trained engineering graduates who are adept at innovation and primed for leadership in the global economy. Originally funded by the National Science Foundation, LESA is headquartered at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., and partners with Boston University, The University of New Mexico, and Thomas Jefferson University to achieve its objectives. To learn more, go to www.lesa.rpi.edu.
About The University of New Mexico
The University of New Mexico, founded in 1889, is the state’s flagship university and premier research institution. Its faculty has included four National Academy of Sciences/Engineering members, six National Academy of Inventors Fellows and 60 Fulbright scholar program awardees, as well as fellows in the National Academy of Medicine and other national and international societies. The UNM Health Sciences Center is New Mexico’s only academic health center, home to the School of Medicine and Colleges of Nursing, Pharmacy and Population Health, as well as UNM Hospital, with its Level I trauma center. UNM is one of a select number of institutions with both a Clinical and Translational Science Award from the National Institutes of Health and a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center. To learn more, visit https://www.unm.edu/